Phthalates in Halloween Costumes? California Thinks So

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Phthalates in Halloween Costumes? California Thinks So

By Jordan Speer, Editor in Chief - 10/05/2012
Consumer goods testing firm SGS reports that nine new California Proposition 65 60-day notices recently have been issued alleging that brands and retailers were selling sandals, bags and Halloween costume accessories in California that contained phthalates, lead and formaldehyde in violation of California Proposition 65 (Prop 65). A 60-day notice is a legal document initiating a "failure to warn" private enforcement lawsuit in California Superior Court against the alleged violator.

Proposition 65 is a California State Law that requires warning labels on all products containing any of the more than 850 listed chemicals which are considered to be known to the State of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. Over the years, Prop 65 has issued consent agreements for a number of consumer products that contain listed hazardous substances including lead, cadmium and phthalates.

Under the Californian law, NGOs and other stakeholders such as private companies or California citizens are permitted to institute legal proceedings to enforce the law by filing a 60-day notice of violation. The 60-day notice alleges violations of the Proposition 65 warning requirements through brands and retailers. Once a settlement is reached, a mandated reformulation or defined limit may be suggested.

Many of the current 60-day notices and lawsuits have named items in the fashion, footwear and apparel industries. It has been alleged that these items contain high levels of lead and phthalates which are considered by law to pose a risk to the consumer. One violation notice was for Halloween Costume Accessories which were found to contain phthalates, lead and formaldehyde (gas). Consumers may be exposed to these chemicals through ingestion, dermal exposure or inhalation. This is the first reported violation under Prop 65 which related to formaldehyde content in the apparel/accessories market.

Three of the nine new "Notices of Violation" were related to children's sandals which were said to contain the phthalates DEHP and DBP. Currently, five of the most common phthalates (DEHP, DBP, DnHP, DIDP and BBP) are in the Prop 65 chemical list. Phthalates are commonly used as plasticizers or softeners in a wide variety of products and are restricted from use in toys and childcare articles under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Owing to the growing concern that phthalates may cause adverse health effects in young children in their normal development processes, manufacturers and importers for all children products, including children's footwear, are expected to undertake reasonable testing programs and due diligence in order to comply with U.S. regulations.