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February 29 2012

Chemicals, Toys, and Calories

Julie Gunlock

Last fall, I wrote about a frenzied (and wildly inaccurate) report by an advocacy group called the Breast Cancer Fund that claimed dangerous levels of the chemical BPA are “lurking in your child’s Campbell’s Disney Princess soup, in her Chef Boyardee pasta with meatballs, even in her organic Annie’s cheesy ravioli.” The completely ludicrous report was only accurate on one small detail: BPA is present in those canned foods, but “dangerously lurking”?  Hardly.

The Fund’s report conveniently left out some critical details, like the fact that BPA has been rigorously studied and deemed perfectly safe by multiple government and private scientific bodies here in the United States as well in Canada, Japan, Germany, Norway, France, Australia, and New Zealand and at the European Union.  I analyze the Breast Cancer Fund’s laughable report on BPA here with a follow-up here.

Now, the chem-nannies have moved on to another so-called dangerous product: Phthalates--a chemical used to soften hard plastics.  And the chem-nannies won a significant victory over this particular product when in 2008, a gullible Congress passed legislation banning the chemical in children’s toys. Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) held public meetings prior to issuing their final report on restricting phthalates.

Like BPA, those interested in banning Phthalates rarely mention the studies that show Phthalates to be completely safe.  As AEI’s John Entine pointed out a few weeks ago, a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that phthalates do not pose a health hazard because the chemical is metabolized, excreted quickly and does not accumulate in the body.  The CDC also endorsed the findings in a 2004 and a 2010 study by the Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine that showed no adverse effects in organ or sexual functioning in adolescent children exposed to phthalates as neonates. 

So, what do these proposed regulations means for the average mom and dad?  First, more expensive toys for your kids as toy companies pass the cost of complying with these regulations onto the consumer.  Second, and perhaps most concerning, because there isn’t a good replacement for Phthalates, children’s toys are likely to become more brittle, which can cause them to break and become a choking hazard. 

Hey, I thought all this regulation was “FOR the children!”

And now, the effort to scare the crap out of parents on chemical exposure goes beyond soft plastic toys.  The chem-nannies’ latest efforts involve blaming the chemical for the epidemic du jour—childhood obesity (what? I thought it was toys in happy meals and unhealthy school lunches!).

According to a year-long study of minority populations in New York City, overweight children have higher levels of phthalate in their urine.  And this, according to the chem-nannies—the mere presence of phthalate residue in urine—is what’s making kids swell to unhealthy weights.

What poppycock! 

There are thousands of studies on the causes of childhood obesity. From video games to soda, from television advertisements to super-sized fast food meals, nearly everything with which a kid comes into contact has been blamed for our children’s expanding waistlines.  Despite the disagreement surrounding what actually causes obesity in children, the statistics prove one thing: minority children—most of whom live in single-parent households--are among the highest demographic for childhood obesity.  Why?  Well, it doesn’t take a government-funded study to tell us that single parents have less time to…well, parent.  Single parents have less time to spend with their children; to cook healthy meals; to monitor their children’s television consumption or their children’s sleep habits.

And when you consider that the results of the largest study on childhood obesity finds that kids who get more sleep, watch less television and have family dinners at least five times a week are less likely to suffer from obesity, is it really a surprise that minority children from single-family households suffer higher rates of obesity?

So, is childhood obesity a case of chemical exposure?  Heck no.

But it sure is easier to blame childhood diseases on chemicals than on the breakdown of the traditional family. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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