Volume VII, Number 6
November/December 2007 California Bans Chemical
in Plastic Baby Toys
California has just become the
The Next first state in the nation to ban the
sale of toys for children under
three that contain certain toxic
S T E P plastic softeners called phthalates
(pronounced “THA laytes”; the
“ph” is silent).
Toward a Healthier Future Supported by environmental
and health groups, this new law
A Bi-monthly Newsletter of the Sebastopol Toxics Education Program goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009. Simi-
lar legislation is expected soon in
at least nine other states, and is
The Gift of Healthier simmer herbs in water on the stove; being explored at the federal level.
or throw herbs like cinammon into Phthalates are used in a wide
Holidays for All your fireplace. More information is in variety of consumer products, in-
the Index under Perfumes. cluding plastic toys and baby
This holiday season, give s Remove mold and reduce its teethers. However, researchers
yourself and others the gift of a regrowth with less-toxic solutions, say that regular contact with ph-
healthier, less-toxic home and such as diluted tea tree oil. For more thalates — for instance, chewing
world. information, see the Index un- on plastic toys — can interfere
Here are some ideas der Mold & Mildew. with children’s essential hormone
for how you can do this. systems at crucial stages in their
s Manage ants without
(For more juicy details on development, increasing their
toxics. For tips, see the In-
these topics, see the TNS chances of serious illness both
dex under Ants. now and later in life.
Online Index at <www.
healthyworld.org/STEP s Give earth-friendly Animal studies have found that
Index.html>.) gifts, including organic phthalates can cause significant
clothes, natural toys, and edu- reproductive and developmental
s Decorate with nature’s cational books, to make it
beauty. Instead of spending harm, including early onset pu-
easier for your loved ones to berty, decreased female fertility,
money on imported toxic trin- create healthier lives.
kets, bring the outside in with reduced offspring survival, in-
fallen pine boughs, bright red berries s Wrap ecologically. Choose re- creased birth defects, male geni-
and leaves, and colorful squash and cycled and chlorine-free paper. Avoid tal abnormalities, breast and
fruit. metallic papers as they can’t be re- prostate cancer, and altered func-
cycled. You can also get creative and tioning of the thyroid gland.
s Avoid toxic “spray snow,” cover gifts with magazine images,
which can include harmful chemicals Because of these problems,
comics, fabric, or paper bags stamped phthalates have been banned in
like perchloroethylene and acetone. and tied with raffia.
Try hanging homemade paper snow- children’s toys in 14 nations and
flake cutouts instead! s Reuse or recycle wrapping pa- the European Union. Alternative
per. Don’t burn it, as it can contain materials are being used instead.
s Buy local organic food for holi- toxic metals. For example, McDonald’s makes
day meals and gifts. You’ll enjoy and toys for its meal packages that
share delicious treats while support- s Discard outdated techno-toys
responsibly, including computers, meet Europe’s standards. Indus-
ing local healthier agriculture. try groups continue to maintain
TVs, phones, stereo equipment, etc.
s Replace synthetic food dyes See the Index under Electronic Waste. that phthalates are safe.
with healthier natural ones. The California bill’s author, San
s Cut blackberries back during
s Clean your house less- winter’s dormancy. Then, instead Francisco Assemblywoman Fiona
toxically, including the oven. For of pouring a toxic pesticide into their Ma, said, “California continues to
more details, see the Online Index roots, prevent regrowth with vinegar. lead the nation in protecting chil-
under Cleaners. See the Index under Vinegar. dren from dangerous chemicals
s Fill your house with natural and in safeguarding our environ-
For more eco-holiday ideas, ment. AB 1108 sends a clear mes-
scents, instead of the toxics hid- see <www.healthyworld.org/eco
den in many commercial air sage to the Consumer Product
holidays.html>. I’d also love to hear Safety Commission that if the
fresheners. Use natural essential your tips and ideas. Email them to
oils, diluted in water in a spray bottle; Bush administration won’t act,
me at <STEP@healthyworld.org>. states will.”
~ Patricia Dines See TOYS, over
the next s t e p
Greening Chemistry ready succeeding in a wide variety of
sectors. They’re also essential to TOYS, continued
solving many of our current
I just returned from my annual sustainability challenges, he says, in- While this bill is an important
pilgrimage to the Bioneers confer- cluding global warming, energy pro- and valuable step forward, it’s just
ence, held every October in Marin. duction and efficiency, and a healthy a first step. Unfortunately, these
As usual, I come back to my daily life food supply. chemicals are still used in many
invigorated both by the valuable in-
GC is becoming increasingly other toys and products, and are
formation and ideas, and by the con-
adopted and appreciated, with GC or- found to be widely polluting our
nection with others who also care
ganizations, university programs, bodies and our world. For more
about the earth.
and awards springing up around the about the problems with phtha-
One of the plenary speakers this world. Europe is pioneering the lates, and how you can protect
year was Paul Anastas, who confer- implementation of these ideas in law. yourself and the planet, see this
ence founder Kenny Ausubel in his California is now finalizing its plans article’s resources at <www.
introduction called “the father of to adopt GC. (For more on the latter, healthyworld.org/catoys.html>.
green chemistry” because of his pio- see the Index under Green Chemis-
neering work in the field. SOURCE: “A nationwide toxic toy ban
try.) GC work was even recognized likely to follow state lead,” SF Chronicle,
Green chemistry (GC) is the envi- in the 2005 Nobel Prize for Chemis- Tom Chorneau, Oct. 16, 2007 <www.
ronmentally-friendly design of try, as the Committee called the sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/
chemical products and processes to 2007/10/16/MNT0SQDJV.DTL>
awarded work “a great step forward
reduce or eliminate the use and pro- for ‘green chemistry’ ... an example
duction of hazardous substances. of how important basic science has
GC, says Ausubel, benefits a been applied for the benefit of man, “It’s a dangerous myth to
corporation’s bottom line by creat- society, and the environment.” believe that you can make
ing superior products, trimming toxic To assist implementation of GC yourself into a healthy
waste, reducing liability, and avoid- ideas, Anastas with John C. Warner person on a sick planet.
ing harm to people and the planet. developed 12 principles of green You can eat wild salmon
Both Ausubel and Anastas de- chemistry. He says that these might instead of tuna to reduce your
scribed the devastation toxics cause seem like common sense, but unfor- exposure to PCBs and mercury.
today, including toxic spills, worsen- tunately aren’t yet common. Overall, You can exercise and reduce
ing ocean dead zones, chemical these encourage scientists to: your risk of heart disease
plants vulnerable to terrorist attacks • Design processes to maximize the and hypertension.
that could harm millions, and a wide amount of the raw material that But we can’t shop our way or
range of poisons found in everyone’s ends up in the final product; lifestyle our way out of being
bodies, including newborns.
• Design chemicals and products to connected to everything else
Anastas describes our current pri- degrade to innocuous substances on our planet.”
mary response to these threats as after use, avoiding accumulation
“hardening the perimeter” with guns, Charlotte Brody
in the environment;
guards, and personal protective gear. Health Care Without Harm
He considers this approach flawed, • Design energy-efficient processes; Executive Director, Commonweal
both because these systems are im- • Design to minimize potential for
perfect and will fail, causing great accidental release, fires, and ex-
harm (as in Bhopal), and because the plosions; ABOUT STEP
costs are high but don’t add to prod- • Avoid producing toxic products
uct capabilities or company profits. and waste; The Next STEP (TNS) is published six times a
year by the Sebastopol Toxics Education Pro-
GC offers a better way to address • Use safe, environmentally-benign gram (STEP). STEP is a project of the City of
these problems — by designing our substances, including solvents, Sebastopol, implemented by local citizen volun-
teers. STEP’s mission is to support city residents
chemicals wisely from the start, so whenever possible; in reducing their toxic use and exposure, creating
that they’re less-toxic, biodegrad- a healthier and safer Sebastopol for everyone.
able, safe for people and wildlife, • Use renewable feedstocks and re- Newsletter Editor, Lead Writer, and Layout:
and less vulnerable to accidents usable catalysts; and Patricia Dines, Email <STEP@healthyworld.org>
and terrorists. • Use real-time monitoring. Newsletter Editorial Team: Patricia Dines and
Anastas says that it’s a That sounds like smart chem- Newsletter Design Concept and Logo De-
myth that we can’t have istry to me! sign: Lyn Dillin (neé Bouguereau)
our modern conve- ~ Patricia Dines STEP Founders: Michael Black, Patricia Dines,
niences without poi- Rebecca Dwan, Jeff Edelheit, Nan Fuchs, Craig
RESOURCES: Bioneers Confer- Litwin, and Larry Robinson.
soning ourselves. GC
ence <www.bioneers.org>, STEP, P. O. Box 1776, Sebastopol CA 95473
applications are al- Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia. <www.ci.sebastopol.ca.us>
org/wiki/Green_chemistry> Printed on recycled paper.