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Toxic Chemicals in Common Items Affect Fertility

The Vancouver Sun,  Oct 21, 2010
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Imagine a child sitting in his classroom, gazing through the window at the rain. He picks up his pencil and chews distractedly on the eraser at its top. Chemicals, classed in Europe as "toxic to reproduction," dissolve in his saliva and enter his body.

It's a scenario that may not be unusual. A report published last week by a consortium of 140 environment groups shows that potentially risky chemicals are present in dozens of everyday plastic items for sale by retailers -- from shoes to erasers, from pencil cases to sex toys.

The study focused on a group of chemicals known as phthalates, six of which have been virtually banned in toys in the European Union since 1999 over fears they can damage the sexual development of children. But as the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) found in its study, phthalates are present in items routinely used by children and on sale in big supermarkets.

The study, based on a chemical analysis by PiCA, an independent chemical laboratory in Berlin, found one pink pencil case with levels three times those which the EU says should be the maximum in toys and "child-care articles."

A phthalate that scientists suspect may be particularly harmful to humans was found in an eraser at a level close to that which would be banned in a toy. In June 2009, Health Canada proposed regulations to prevent the use of six phthalates in soft vinyl children's toys and child-care articles.

Concerns about phthalates are not new, and retailers selling products containing them are not breaking the law, because the regulations do not cover objects such as pencil cases and erasers.

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