'Gender bending' chemicals found in children's bodies and consumer products

Toxic chemicals found in Disney children's pyjamas

Press release - 20 October, 2003
'Gender bending' and other chemicals that can damage reproductive organs, interfere with growth and development and damage the immune system have been found contaminating children even while they are still in the womb, according to a report published today by Greenpeace (1).

The report also finds that these chemicals are likely to have a far more significant effect on pre-natal and newly born children than they do on adults, because of differences in patterns of absorption, metabolism and excretion of chemicals.

The report launch coincides with the release of the results of tests by independent scientists commissioned by Greenpeace (2). The tests found the same hazardous chemicals in a sample of consumer products including children's pyjamas, toys and baby feeding bottles, as well as perfumes, paints, car interior cleaners and air fresheners.

These chemical pollutants can be passed to the unborn child from the mother and very young children can absorb substances in products through their mouth and skin.

Among the products tested were:

* Children's pyjamas - 5 pairs of Disney branded pyjamas and 1 pair of Bob the Builder pyjamas:

Nonylphenol - thought to interfere with human DNA and affect sperm production in mammals - were found in Disney branded pyjamas as well as in a "Bob the Builder" garment from Mothercare. High levels of the closely related nonylphenol ethoxylate were also found in all garments tested.

All the children's garments also contained phthalates, which are banned from teething toys under emergency EU legislation because they can cause liver, kidney and testicular damage. The highest levels of phthalates were found in Disney "Tigger" pyjamas.

* Chad Valley ducks: Very high levels of nonylphenol and pthaltates were also found in a Chad Valley bath duck bought from Woolworth.

* A Toys-R-Us baby feeding bottle contained Bisphenol-A which has been shown to cause genetic damage in mice and is known to mimic hormones.

* Tests on perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products and paints also found toxic organotins and artificial musk compounds.

The findings come a week before the European Commission will present new legislation to Parliament that aims to bring greater protection to consumers from the uncontrolled use of chemicals (3). However, loopholes in the regulation mean chemicals that can build up in the human body and damage health - the kind of chemicals found in the study - may be unaffected by the new rules.

Greenpeace Campaigner Mark Strutt said, "On behalf of every parent, Greenpeace demands the new law on chemicals will make sure that hazardous chemicals that get into children's bodies are phased out and replaced with safer substitutes".

He added, "Replacing these chemicals with safer alternatives will benefit everybody. It's time for the chemical industry to stop polluting children's bodies."

Notes to editors

(1) The new Greenpeace report 'Chemical legacy - contamination of the child' is also available online

(2) The tests were commissioned by Greenpeace and undertaken by TNO Laboratory in the Netherlands. Full results are available online

(3) The REACH legislation (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) is expected to be published on October 29th. It will then be considered by the European parliament and should become law in 2005.

Other related Greenpeace toxics reports available online are:

* Human Impacts of manmade chemicals - an overview.

* Safer Chemicals within Reach - using the substitution principle to drive green chemistry.

* Consuming chemicals - levels of chemicals in house dust as an indicator of human exposure.