They just might be. And believe me when I say that's a sentence I never thought I'd write. Yet even after pinching myself for several minutes to make sure I hadn't slipped into some non-toxicological reverie, the news remained: Congress has agreed to ban three phthalates from children's toys and halt the use of three more pending further study.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I’ve been writing about the hazards of these nefarious chemicals until I was blue in the keyboard. And many other people far more dedicated than I have been working overtime to get some kind, any kind, of regulation that would stop companies from using them. I was curious about how long we’ve all been beating this particular drum, so I checked the archive of our former newsletter, the Non-Toxic Times, to see when we first discussed phthalates. They were mentioned in our very first issue -- published nine summers ago.
So by any measure, this is a seismic event, one made even more so by the fact that phthalates are a well-established, high-volume chemical found in all kinds of common consumer products. They are already banned in other countries. But in our own country, Big Business has been fighting to preserve the profitable status quo no of phthalates. According to the Washington Post, ExxonMobil, a large supplier of the phthalate DINP, often found in children’s toys, spent a good portion of its $22 million lobbying budget fighting the new law over the last year and a half. (What’s the matter boys? A quarterly net profit of $11.68 billion not enough for you?) So to find Congress actually agreeing to ban three phthalates and (bonus!) put a hold on three more is fairly astounding on all levels.
The Post says the new legislation “signals an important crack in the chemical industry's ability to fend off federal regulation and suggests that the landscape may be shifting to favor consumers.” I don’t know about that. This is also an election year and many of our normally recalcitrant Congressfolk are running scared. The new phthalates law has also been bundled with a slew of other measures in a package that aims to revamp the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which after several years of scandal is on everybody’s hit list. So the new phthalates rules could just be a clever move to hitch a ride on a bandwagon and sneak into law under its protective cover. (The White House has said the President opposes the ban, but a veto of the overall law in an unfriendly election year would be perilous indeed.)
Whatever. The bottom line is that phthalates look like they’re toast, and regardless of exactly how it is that they got burned, we should all take a moment to celebrate the notion that they may no longer be burning us.