31 December 2008 17:11 [Source: ICIS news]
By Brian Ford
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US plastics industry will continue to face a barrage of health-related issues as consumers and regulators press forward with questions regarding the impact of chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA).
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in July that the ban had no scientific merit.
Such a move could lead to more restrictions on phthalates, which are used as plastic softeners in products such as cosmetics, medical devices and building materials as well as children’s toys.
“In addition, this analysis, called a cumulative risk assessment, should consider other chemicals that could potentially cause the same health effects as phthalates, instead of focusing on chemicals that are similar in structure, which is EPA's current practice,” the National Research Council said in a press release.
The council noted that the EU has banned several phthalates from cosmetics as well as children’s toys.
The ACC lauded the report, saying it “provides useful information to the scientific community…” but added it had “some reservations about how to conduct the cumulative risk assessment on substances regardless of mechanism of action [MOA]".
The ACC added that Congress has already asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to conduct a cumulative risk assessment on phthalates and “there is a question as to whether a simultaneous [EPA] study would be redundant.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) had concluded in 2002 that exposure to di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) - the primary phthalate used in toys - would pose a minimal to non-existent risk of injury for the majority of children, according to the ACC, which hosts a “Phthalates Information Center” on its website.
“High doses of some phthalates can interfere with normal sexual development in male rats, but this is not true in mice, nor in monkeys, and therefore highly unlikely in humans given that there are significant differences in the male reproductive tract of rodents and primates” according to the ACC’s Phthalates Information Center.
“Studies have suggested that reactions to phthalates exposure vary from species to species because primates simply do not absorb phthalates as efficiently as rodents do.”
ACC president and CEO Cal Dooley said this month that many chemical products are “under public attack, the result of misunderstood science, the politics of fear and significantly, industry’s failure to convince the public that its products are safe for their intended use. But proposed product bans reflect neither good science nor good policy”.
Dooley added: “ACC must work with government and nongovernmental organizations to develop a clear consensus about scientific criteria and assure the quality of industry’s science.”
Attacks on BPA - another plastics-related chemical - are also likely to continue through 2009.
The industry expects legislation to be introduced next year that would ban BPA in children products, said Steve Russell, managing director of the plastics division of the ACC.
The health effects of BPA, which is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate (PC) products, including baby bottles, were at the centre of a controversy this year that raged among regulators and policymakers in the US and Canada.
Some reports have linked exposure to BPA with health problems and reproductive defects, including birth defects in boys, heart disease in adults and lower sperm counts and breast cancer in animal testing.
Controversy arose after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year declared the chemical to be safe, based on the findings of an FDA subcommittee. It was later revealed that the subcommittee had based its decision on studies that received funding from the chemical industry.
An independent advisory committee issued a report in October saying that the FDA failed to adequately consider research that showed health effects of the chemical at low doses.
The FDA then said in October it would research the potential low dose effects of BPA, citing “the uncertainties raised in some studies…”.
However, it said: “Consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the
Meanwhile, Canadian health agency Health
But the agency added that BPA “exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that cause effects; however, due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of bisphenol A, the government of Canada is taking action to enhance the protection of infants and young children”.
The FDA said the
“That subtlety was widely misunderstood by the mainstream press,” said the ACC’s Russell.
The plastics industry has announced plans to launch a new image campaign in early 2009 to restore the reputation of polymers and derivative products chiefly among young adults in the 18-28 age group.
The campaign is the result of an initiative driven by members of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), said its president Bill Carteaux, as plastics have come under increasing criticism and hostile state and federal legislative and policy initiatives.
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