Press Release

Gillibrand Calls On Congress To Protect Consumers From Exposure To Toxic Phthalate Chemicals

Aug 9, 2021

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act, legislation to prevent harmful phthalate chemicals from contaminating the U.S. food supply and plastics. Phthalates are harmful chemicals added to plastic products used throughout the food production process and can cause serious health problems. These chemicals have been found to leach into food through plastic products and equipment such as tubing, lid gaskets, food preparation gloves, conveyor belts and food packaging materials. Gillibrand is joined by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Representatives Ted Lieu and Katie Porter (both D-CA) will be leading companion legislation in the House.

“Americans deserve to have peace of mind that the food they eat and the products they purchase are safe from toxic substances,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must take decisive steps to prevent dangerous phthalates from reaching our food and packaging materials – especially for our children whose bodies are particularly susceptible to toxic chemicals. The Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act would help protect the health of consumers by bettering our understanding of the scope and consequences of exposure to these chemicals and by creating clear standards for measurable phthalates in our food.”

A recent report in the American Journal of Public Health showed that prenatal exposure to phthalates can have lasting consequences to children’s brain development and increase children’s risks for learning, attention and behavior disorders. Pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates has been shown to decrease fetal testosterone, as well as harm reproductive development in male babies. Overall, women have higher exposure to phthalates found in personal care products than men, and Black and Latina women have higher exposure to certain phthalates compared to white women, independent of socioeconomic status. A 2013 study found that phthalates were widely present among commonly consumed foods purchased from a supermarket in Albany, New York.

The Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act would ban phthalates from materials that touch food and ensure that any replacement substance is safe. The bill would also require a review of other products to determine whether they lead to phthalate exposure with consideration of whether communities of color are disproportionately exposed as well as the health effects of such exposure.

The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Earthjustice, Endocrine Society, Environmental Working Group, Healthy Babies Bright Futures and Project TENDR.

Full text of the Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act can be found here.