California may restrict two chemicals used in plastic baby goods

In its continuing quest to make the rest of the country look environmentally retrograde, the California legislature is considering a bill that would ban the use of two controversial chemicals in baby products. Specifically, it would prohibit phthalates, used to soften plastic items like chew toys, and bisphenol A (BPA), used in polycarbonate plastic products like baby bottles. While phthalates are already banned in some countries, this would be the world’s first restriction on BPA. Toy manufacturers and plastics-industry reps say both have proved safe in humans. But critics point to several studies implicating phthalates and BPA in hormonal and genital damage in lab animals — as well as to some recent (and yes, controversial) research suggesting phthalates can hurt the sexual development of baby boys. With safer alternatives already available, ban supporters say, the state should take a “better safe than sorry” approach.