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Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Household chemicals warning
PVC toy being sucked at
PVC toys may contain phthalates
Many chemicals found routinely in products around the home could be damaging our health, according to claims.

Many of them have the ability to bio-accumulate - gathering in the body's tissues over a period of time, and in some cases can be passed to babies via breastmilk.

In many cases, however, the link between the chemicals and ill-health has not be proven in humans, although it is strongly suspected.

Campaigners say EU regulations need to be tightened, however, to reduce the risk to consumers.

A survey by the magazine Which? quizzed manufacturers about which of the suspect products are found in their products.

The four classes of chemicals were:

  • Artificial musks - used as fragrances in perfumes, cosmetics and household goods. Certain types have been found to cause cancer in rats in experiments.
  • Phthalates - plastic softeners used in many PVC products, such as children's toys, and in some cosmetics. They bioaccumulate and animal tests suggest they may cause birth defects, liver damage. Temporary ban on their use in some children's products, such as dummies.
  • Bisphenol A - a component of resins used to line food cans. Classed by the European Chemicals Bureau as a "reproductive toxicant". Animal tests suggest it may disrupt hormone balance - provoking early puberty in female rats.
  • Organotins - heat stabilisers used in approximately 8% of PVC products in Europe. Traces have also been found in some brands of disposable nappies. Suspected of disrupting hormones.

The Which? survey asked UK manufacturers whether their products were free of these chemicals.

Most were able to confirm this, but others admitted that they included some of the suspect ingredients.

The makers of Glade air fresheners, and Dove and Physiosport shower gels contained artificial musks.

Canned food

Avon, Olay and Max Factor nail varnishes contained phthalates, while several other manufacturers said they were in the process of "phasing them out", including Boots, L'Oreal, Lancome and Maybelline.

Heinz, John West and Princes use Bisphenol A to make food and drink cans, and it is an ingredient of most baby feeding bottles in the UK, including those made by Boots, Mothercare, Tommee Tippee and Avent.

The magazine encouraged consumers to examine the ingredient label on cosmetics and toiletries, and contact the company to get more information if required.

The magazine said: "There are still to many uncertainties about the potentially harmful effects of some chemicals on human health and the environment.

"If there is reason to suspect that a chemical may be risky, it should be withdrawn from use until further research is completed."

See also:

02 Jul 98 | Health
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