ExxonMobil fighting keep its dangerous chemicals in children's toys

ExxonMobil is fighting to keep its dangerous chemicals in children's toys

9:36 AM, 3rd January 2017
ExxonMobil is fighting to keep its dangerous chemicals in children's toys
Phthalates are in everything from food containers and plastic wrap to rattles, pacifiers, bottle nipples, and teething toys for babies. (File photo)

IRVING, US: ExxonMobil Corporation, as an energy giant makes sense that it is the world’s largest publicly held oil and gas company. Rex Tillerson, the company’s CEO, has spent his entire professional life highlighting the company’s corporate concerns over human rights, the environment, and the diplomatic interests of the US. These have driven him to be appointed as the secretary of state (US).

Also as you know, the company is one of the world’s biggest chemical companies and its chemical interests also sometimes run counter to those of people in the US and beyond. Petrochemicals wound up in a wide range of consumer products such as plastics, tires, batteries, detergents, adhesives, synthetic fibres, and household detergents.

Among its chemical products are phthalates, a family of chemicals widely used to make plastic pliable. Phthalates are in everything from food containers and plastic wrap to rattles, pacifiers, bottle nipples, and teething toys for babies. More than 75 percent of Americans have at least five of the chemicals in their body, according to a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The company insists that its products pose no harm. In response to inquiries, the company emailed a statement to The Intercept saying that “ExxonMobil phthalates have been thoroughly tested, and evaluations by multiple government agencies in the US, EU, and Australia show they are safe in their current applications.”

But numerous independent studies have linked the chemicals to health problems, including cancer, neurodevelopmental effects, endocrine disruption, and adverse harm to the male reproductive system.

Given the risks, Congress permanently banned several phthalates in 2008, temporarily banned a few others, and directed the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to study whether several other phthalates should also be removed from kids’ products. The law required the CPSC to act within 180 days of its final decision.

An expert committee appointed by the CPSC came out with its final report on phthalates in 2014. After years of meetings, public comments, and peer review, the panel of scientists decided that eight phthalates should be banned from use in children’s toys. The report named studies showing that babies who were exposed to higher levels of some phthalates in utero tended to have smaller “anogenital distances” and other reproductive tract problems, effects that were also seen in animals exposed to phthalates.

Despite the clear directive of the scientific experts and the Congress-mandated timeframe, the CPSC has yet to finalise its ban. During the almost two years since the deadline passed, Exxon Mobil has been working hard to slow and reverse the commission’s decision, drafting at least one legislative rider designed to keep some of their phthalates on the market and submitting lengthy comments and objections to the ban.

As a political force, kids are no match for one of the world’s biggest chemical companies, and they’ll suffer for the lack of clout. While the CPSC fails to finalise its own rule, more and more kids are exposed to phthalates. The inaction “speaks to the power of Exxon to frighten federal agencies away from doing their jobs,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney with Earthjustice. And that was before the company’s CEO had a top government job.

© Organic Consumers Association 

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