Excessive ‘Gender-Bending’ Chemicals Found in Plastic ‘Toxic Toys’

Press release - 2011-05-18
Beijing - Greenpeace has found high levels of phthalates banned by the EU and the US in children’s products and toys made from vinyl plastic (also called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) on the Chinese market. Phthalates are plastic softeners widely added to PVC materials and are linked to hormone malfunctions and toxicity to the reproductive system. Children and infants are particularly vulnerable to phthalate exposure. The EU and the US have banned six types of phthalates in children’s products and toys, but China currently lacks comparable regulations.

This child is playing with a set of plastic bath duckies, which are composed of 16.76% phthalates by weight. Phthalates are endocrine disruptor chemicals that can interfere with human hormones. Testing by an independent laboratory found phthalates in 21 out of 30 samples of children’s products and toys purchased in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Nineteen of the 21 positive samples contained more than 10% phthalates by total weight, with one toy containing nearly half its weight in phthalates at 43.1%.

“Governments in the EU and North America have all recognized the serious health concerns of phthalates for children, yet in China, kids are unprotected from these harmful toxins,” said Greenpeace campaigner Yixiu Wu. “We urge the Chinese government to follow suit and immediately ban the use of phthalates in children’s products.”

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that interfere with human hormones. Because phthalates are not bonded to the plastic, they leach into the environment easily. Exposure has been associated with hormone malfunctions, reproductive toxicity and genital abnormalities in babies, especially boys. Animal studies have also suggested that the chemical may damage reproductive development by disrupting hormone levels.

“Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys and products – especially at these high levels.” said Wu. “What’s more, children are one of the most vulnerable groups to hormone disruptors – they like to put things in their mouths, and their reproductive, immune and endocrine systems are still developing.”

Since 1999, the EU has banned the use of six types of phthalates in children’s products; as of February 2011, three of these have been scheduled for complete phase out in the EU market. The US and Australia also have bans and restrictions on phthalates in children’s products, while other developed countries have drawn up lists of hormone disruptors.

Over 90% of the chemicals currently on the Chinese market have not undergone safety assessments, and most of them are not regulated. Greenpeace calls upon the government to establish a comprehensive regulatory system for chemicals – including all endocrine disruptors – based on the precautionary principle, and eliminate the hazardous chemicals that seriously threaten human health and the environment.

Contact Information:

Myra Liu, Media Officer

+86 (10) 6554 6931 ext. 118

Yixiu Wu, Campaigner

+86 (10) 6554 6931 ext. 177