WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 18, 2008) – A report released by the National Research Council today calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to look at the combined effects of a variety of chemicals found in everyday products, rather than looking at each chemical’s individual health risks, as it has done in the past.
A statement follows from Dr. Sarah Janssen, reproductive scientist and physician with the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“We don’t live in laboratories – we live in the real world where we are exposed to multiple chemicals from multiple sources every day. This report recognizes that fact – and is a clear directive to the EPA that we will continue to underestimate the risk of chemicals if we keep addressing them one by one. The smart strategy is to consider the complex soup of toxic chemicals that we are exposed to, starting before birth and continuing throughout our lives.
“We don’t need anymore research on phthalates. We know they are reproductive toxins and we shouldn’t waste anymore time studying each of them individually. We have all the data we need to move forward with smart, comprehensive science that will protect consumers.
“This report should also serve as a wake-up call to other government agencies tasked with protecting us from harmful chemicals. The FDA should incorporate these recommendations when assessing the risks of phthalates as food additives. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission needs to do the same when evaluating the safety of phthalates in toys.”
Today’s report comes at the request of the EPA for guidance on how to evaluate the health risks associated with phthalates, a family of toxic chemicals used in a variety of common consumer and household products, including children's toys.
Some phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that interfere with production of the male sex hormone, testosterone. In lab animals, they have been associated with reproductive abnormalities, including decreases in testosterone levels, impaired sperm production and birth defects of male genitals. There is emerging data showing similar outcomes in humans. Some phthalates have been banned from children’s toys in the U.S., Europe and other countries. Europe has also banned two phthalates from cosmetics.
As noted in this report, the general public is exposed to multiple phthalates at the same time throughout their lives. These exposures all contribute to cause harm, especially in the fetus and in children. Today’s report further recommends that cumulative risk assessments should be done with all chemicals that disrupt male reproductive organ development, not just phthalates. It also notes that EPA’s chemical and safety profiles are outdated and no longer relevant, especially for phthalates, and found that there is enough scientific data on phthalates for EPA to proceed with an updated assessment for this group of chemicals.