California Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced a new bill in the U.S. Congress that would prevent the use of a family of chemicals known as phthalates in containers used for food contact applications.
The bill is part of Senator Feinstein’s ongoing effort to remove phthalates from as many consumer products as possible. In 2007, Feinstein introduced a bill titled The Children’s Chemical Risk Reduction Act to ban phthalates in toys and other children’s products. That provision was included in the broader Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008.
Feinstein emphasized in in her introduction of her new legislation that scientific research has shown that phthalates interfere with the natural functions of the hormone system, which can cause health problems – particularly to the reproductive system.
Several phthalates are listed under Proposition 65 as reproductive and developmental toxicants.
Phthalates have also been linked to learning and behavioral problems in children and, insulin resistance in adolescents and adults.
The Protect Our Food From Phthalate Contamination Act would ban phthalates from materials that come into with food and ensure the safety of any substance used as a replacement material. The bill also provides companies that use phthalates in their products a two-year period to phase them out and find safer alternatives.
Exposure to Phthalates is one of the leading categories in Proposition 65 enforcement actions. The only substance that has been named in more citizen enforcement actions than members of the phthalate family is lead and its various compounds.
Senator Feinstein’s bill has garnered broad support from health advocacy organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Environmental Working Group and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
Despite the solid support from health advocacy groups, it is very likely that the measure will be vigorously opposed by chemical industry interests that manufacture plastic-based food packaging materials by the truckload.