Is vinyl plastic making our children fat and asthmatic?


An alarming pair of new studies add to the mounting scientific evidence linking vinyl chemicals to asthma and obesity in children.

The latest study found an association between the phthalates DINP and DIDP and asthma, which are primarily used to make vinyl flooring and other vinyl products flexible.  The researchers report:

“The strong correlation between MCOP and MCNP suggests similar sources of exposure to the parent compounds, which are both used primarily as plasticizers of PVC and may be used in flooring, wall coverings, building materials, heat-resistant electrical cords, car interiors, and toys.”

OK.  I need to vent, for just one moment.

We’re talking about asthma here people! You know, the disease that impacts over 7 million children!  A disease that kills over 3,000 Americans a year.  AND it’s super costly.  According to the CDC, asthma costs $57 billion a year in healthcare costs. B-I-L-L-I-O-N.

Now that I got that out of me, as I’ve blogged before, this isn’t the first time certain phthalates have been linked to asthma.  It’s not even the second or third!

What’s particularly interesting is that DINP and DIDP are phthalates the industry loves to argue are “safe.”  And of course, they make the same argument for just about every other poisonous chemical they just love to pump into consumer products.

The other new study, which Nick Kristof wrote about in the New York Times last weekend, found a link between certain organotins and obesity.

Nick Kristof sums it up:

“Just this month, a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that endocrine disruptors that are sometimes added to PVC plastic cause mice to grow obese and suffer liver problems — and the effect continues with descendants of those mice, generation after generation.”

These chemicals which can apparently help trigger obesity, have been coined obesogens (dioxins and phthalates have also been linked to obesity BTW).

Like phthalates, organotins are added to vinyl products to give them certain properties; in this case they’re used as “stabilizers.”  Lead and cadmium are also used as stabilizers, and now the chemical industry seems to be playing a toxic shell game with our children’s health, where they’re replacing one toxic stabilizer for another (in this case, switching out lead for cadmium or organotins).  If that’s not a regrettable substitute, I don’t know what is. Oy.

What’s especially concerning is that these chemicals continue to be used in building materials and other vinyl products in our homes and schools, where our kids spend so much of their time.  Why is that they can be banned in toys, but still be allowed in so many other products?!

If we want to avoid these harmful additives, and all the other toxic hazards associated with vinyl (HELLO!  chlorine gas, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, chlorinated byproducts like PCBs, dioxins and furans, and mercury, oh my!), the best thing to do is to get it out of our schools and homes in the first place.

These new studies underscore the need for companies like Disney to get these chemicals and plastic out of children’s products one and for all.

After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Right?


Exxon Mobil: You Can’t Duck Reform!


This Thursday, CHEJ joined environmental health leaders, environmental justice organizers, and nurses from Alaska to Texas for a spirited rally outside of Exxon Mobil’s Houston corporate offices to demand an end to the poisoning of our communities and kids’ toys.  We blasted Exxon Mobil for blocking new restrictions on toxic chemicals that damage children’s health and pollute local communities.    Betty the Be Safe Ducky,  the symbol of phthalate-laden PVC toxic toys, made a special visit to Texas just for the occasion.

You can read our press release here, and media coverage in Forbes and the Houston Press. Check out this slideshow of pictures from the action:

Environmental Justice in Texas

For far too long, Exxon has been polluting communities around Texas with their toxic emissions.  Asthma afflicts nearly 1 million children in Texas and accounts for almost 200,000 hospitalizations a year. In the Houston-Galveston region alone, roughly 76,000 children suffer from asthma.

“Exxon’s petrochemical plants were built around historic communities of color, and now Texas and Louisiana families are suffering from illnesses, such as asthma and cancer, linked to the toxic chemicals they release,” explains Juan Parras of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

Exxon’s Corporate Profits Over Children’s Health

In recent years, Exxon Mobil has been playing politics with our children’s health.  Exxon is the largest manufacturer of phthalates in the United States, and for years has been doing all they can to defend their dinosaur product line at the expense of our children’s health. How have they done this?

  • In 2008, Congress banned toxic phthalates in PVC toys, which Exxon aggressively lobbied against.  The legislation set up a committee within the Consumer Product Safe Commission (CPSC) to review the hazards of some phthalates like DINP that were temporary banned in the legislation.  Ever since, Exxon has aggressively lobbied the federal government to overturn the ban on these toxic phthalates.
  • Exxon has also worked to stall the EPA’s chemical action plan on phthalates, by lobbying the White House Office of Management and Budget, who has been reviewing the action plan for over 500 days now.  500 days!
  • Even more recently, Exxon has been working to influence the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DFE) program to assess safer alternatives to phthalates.
  • ExxonMobil also opposes Congressional approval of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, which would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s broken chemical safety law that was last updated 35 years ago.

Rather than lobbying government officials to protect their corporate profits at the expense of children’s health, ExxonMobil should invest in safer chemicals that are healthier for children, workers and communities.

American Public Health Association and PVC

Thursday’s action comes on the heels of the American Public Health Association, one of the nation’s largest health associations, calling for a phase-out of phthalate-laden PVC in schools, daycare centers, hospitals, and other facilities with vulnerable populations.    The new policy focuses on PVC particularly because of the hazards of phthalates.  While Congress has banned phthalates in toys, they continue to be widespread in our nation’s schools and hospitals.

This resolution by one of the largest association of health professionals in the United States is an important new voice calling for government agencies to take action to address the risks posed by PVC and phthalates.

See what CNN had to say about this new policy.

Emerging science: PVC chemicals harmful to kids’ health

The science is clear.  Phthalates are harmful to children’s health, and phthalate-laden PVC products have no place in our nation’s schools or hospitals.

Will Exxon listen up?