Although chemical bans overseas have prompted some manufacturers to reformulate all their products worldwide, many toys and cosmetics are exceptions.
Europe banned or restricted six phthalate compounds in toys. In beauty products, Europe has eliminated 900 compounds, including two phthalates, suspected of causing reproductive disorders, cancer or genetic mutations.
The U.S. toy industry said seven years ago, when the European Union first banned some phthalates, that it would voluntarily remove them from products for babies and toddlers. But last year, 15 of 18 vinyl bath toys, teethers that babies chew on and other toys purchased at U.S. stores contained the chemicals, according to tests by the activist organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group. One plastic book labeled "phthalate free" contained phthalates.
Low levels of phthalates, used mostly to soften plastic, are in the bodies of nearly all Americans tested. Animal studies and some human research show that they block testosterone and cause reproductive abnormalities in male newborns.