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Re: comments on toys

  A response to a few of the points you make, and IÂ’ll apologize in advance for
  the length, but these are relatively important points.  And you didnÂ’t
  disappoint me—you found a way to work a gratuitous reference to cigarettes
  into the posting, no matter how obscure.
  1)  What are toys?  Well, wires are not toys.  Raincoats are not toys.  Toys
  R Us also sells candy, and batteries which are not toys.  I think we, as
  parents, have some sense of what might reasonably be repeatedly sucked, which
  is the issue.
  2)  Phthalates.  "Admitting" that phthalates are largely used in vinyl is a
  little like "admitting" that most PVC goes to rigid, durable applications.
   ItÂ’s a look-up exercise and not a secret.  On the other hand, it is also
  true that phthalates are used with some other plastics and in adhesives.
  The toxicity of phthalates is low, period.  Any material with a "no effect
  level" for daily feeding of 500 mg/kg (nearly 1% of the diet) is low in
  toxicity.  Would you advise that salt, perfectly safe, be eaten at nearly 1%
  of the diet?  Or if it were that there would be no adverse effect?
  Warning labels are designed to mark the extreme cases of exposure.  What that
  warning really means is donÂ’t bathe in it; it doesnÂ’t mean the slightest
  contact is instantly fatal.  Consider the warning on a piece of equipment not
  to drive it when drowsy.  It doesnÂ’t mean never drive it because you might
  become drowsy while youÂ’re doing so; it means use caution when you drive it.
   Scientists and citizens see warning labels, evaluate them and use their
  I guess this comes down to our individual readings of precaution.  Yours, I
  believe, is "avoid all unnecessary risks."  Mine is "avoid all significant
  unnecessary risks."  I suppose thereÂ’s a risk that if you step on a crack
  youÂ’ll break your motherÂ’s back, but I donÂ’t obsess about what are very
  slight risks.  The risk from phthalates in vinyl articles is slight by my
  reading, based on what is already known about these materials and the
  exposure to them.
  3)  Lead.  Your posting gets a little unfocused here, so let me reiterate.
   Lead in PVC at levels of thousands of ppm may be there as a stabilizer.
   Levels of hundreds of ppm are probably pigments; in the low hundreds may be
  lead from the environment on the article, possibly modulated by its point of
  origin.  Lead and cadmium can and are used as pigments in lots of things.  If
  Greenpeace were interested in lead exposure it would also look for it in
  places other than PVC.  Since that hasnÂ’t been done, I question whether the
  issue is protecting the public from lead or furthering a political goal.
  That said, letÂ’s look at your examples.  Will children continually suck on
  the Robin tent pole?  The Tweety purse?  The Minnie Mouse umbrella?  These
  are not teething rings, Charlie.
  Additionally, there is a difference between a paint, which can weather and
  flake off, and a solid article.  Not to be too technical, but extraction of
  lead from any of these devices will be from a thin surface layer.  A large
  molecule like lead sulfate or lead chloride—neither of which is very
  soluble--will not tend to diffuse to the surface.  Continuous exposure of the
  items mentioned to bright sunlight for years (as with the miniblinds) might
  cause a surface dusting, but are the purse, the tent pole and the umbrella
  going to be used that way, and then continually sucked?
  It always comes back to the same thing.  What is the route of exposure, how
  much is there and what is the effect.  If we were talking about
  lead-stabilized teething rings, I might feel differently about it.  WeÂ’re
  Finally, you applaud governments that agree with you and blast those that
  donÂ’t.  I think the CPSC, which happens to be a pretty aggressive agency by
  most standards, has done a pretty fair job on the issue despite pressure
  visits from Greenpeace.
  Bill Carroll
  Chlorine Chemistry Council