June 12, 2008
Hearing on Safety of Phthalates and Bisphenol-A in Everyday Consumer Products House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection June 10, 2008
Presented by Marian Stanley Manager of the Phthalate Esters Panel
Good morning, Madam Chairperson, Ranking Member Whitfield, and members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Phthalates and bisphenol-A, or BPA, are not exactly terms that roll off the tongue; although of late they seem to be the focus of more and more American consumers who wonder whether products with these materials are safe. More than five decades of scientific scrutiny by institutions around the world support the continued use of phthalates and BPA in consumer products.
Phthalates are vinyl plasticizers. They make shower curtains, floors, raincoats, and other household items soft and flexible. They keep vinyl toys soft and flexible so they don’t break into small, sharp pieces that can be easily swallowed. And they are used in non-consumer products like IV tubing and blood bags, helping to save lives.
BPA is used primarily to make clear, shatter-resistant polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. For example, BPA is used to make bicycle and football helmets, eyeglass lenses, and baby bottles and sports water bottles. Epoxy resins are widely used as coatings to protect metals from corrosion. For example, as the coating inside most metal cans, epoxy resins protect the safety and integrity of canned foods and beverages.
Over the last 18 months, media reports have referred to a handful of studies that attempt to link phthalate and BPA exposure to adverse health effects. We’re here today, Madam Chairperson, to provide a more complete picture and to help put the public’s mind at ease.
Let’s first talk about phthalates and the numerous government agency assessments that found their use in consumer products is safe.
- In a 2001 safety assessment of vinyl toys softened with phthalates, the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated there is, and I quote, “no demonstrated health risk” to children from the phthalate most commonly found in toys, DINP. CPSC added that there is, and I’m once again quoting, “no justification” for banning the use of this phthalate.
- The National Toxicology Program had similar findings regarding DINP. The NTP found, “minimal concern” regarding this phthalate.
- And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tested thousands of Americans for evidence of exposure to phthalates. The CDC data shows that average human exposure is far below levels set by EPA as protective of human health.
So, there you have three U.S. government agencies finding that phthalates are being used safely in both consumer and non-consumer products. These findings have been mirrored by international agencies. For example, the European Chemicals Bureau stated that the phthalate used in toys is, and I am quoting here once again, “unlikely to pose a risk” even for newborns. As to why the EU Parliament opted to ban phthalates in some children’s products, despite its own agency’s finding of safety, it appears that politics, not science, drove the decision.
Turning next to BPA, in the past two years comprehensive scientific assessments from the European Union, the US National Toxicology Program, Health Canada, NSF International, and the European Food Safety Authority have all been undertaken, and these assessments support the continued safe use of consumer products containing BPA. Very recently the FDA said “we believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure to levels of BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects.”
Recently, the Canadian government, for purely precautionary reasons, proposed to ban polycarbonate baby bottles. However, their scientific report concluded that “research tells us the general public need not be concerned. In general, most Canadians are exposed to very low levels of Bisphenol-A and it does not pose a significant health risk.”
In conclusion, I want to state that the American Chemistry Council understands that the public wants to be assured that the products they use are safe, and have been evaluated using the best available science. We agree. In the case of phthalates and BPA, consumers can confidently rely on rich bodies of safety data and, the comprehensive assessments from experts in the US and around the world.
Thank you again for the opportunity to address the subcommittee. I am prepared to answer your questions regarding phthalates, and my colleague, Dr. Steve Hentges, is available to answer your questions regarding BPA.