Shanghai quarantine officials are reportedly “on the lookout for dangerous Barbie dolls” after German media reports said the plastic toys contained a cancer-causing chemical. The chemical in question — Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP — is found in many plastics and is not considered toxic at the level at which it usually exists in the environment. That said, it could still give you cancer, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. government’s Department of Health and Human Services:
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that DEHP may reasonably be anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The EPA has determined that DEHP is a probable human carcinogen. These determinations were based entirely on liver cancer in rats and mice. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has stated that DEHP cannot be classified as to its carcinogenicity to humans.
But don’t start throwing away your Barbies just yet (you should sell them on eBay, anyway):
Children can be exposed to DEHP in the same manner as adults. In addition, small children can be exposed by sucking on or skin contact with plastic toys and pacifiers that contain DEHP, but there is no conclusive evidence of adverse health effects after such exposures. Nonetheless, because of concern for children’s health, many toy manufacturers have discontinued use of DEHP in their products. In pregnant rats and mice exposed to high amounts of DEHP, researchers observed birth defects and fetal deaths.
The report goes on to say that “it is almost impossible to completely avoid contact with some DEHP because it is commonly found in plastics” and that, if worried about DEHP, parents could try to “prevent babies and small children from chewing on plastic objects not designed for that purpose.” Shanghaiist doesn’t have children, but suspects that last suggestion to be impossible.
While the story singles out Barbie, 24 of 30 toys that the German magazine tested were “contaminated” with DEHP. Shanghai inspectors say that they don’t routinely test for DEHP on imported toys and there are no government set standards for levels of DEHP in products. Before they take any action, they will wait for the claim to be verified and for Mattel, Barbie’s manufacturer, to issue a recall, a refreshingly levelheaded officer said.
Mattel is expected to make an announcement about the issue today, the story says.
Cancer on the barbie (Sploid)
Image from mikaelsvanstrom.virtualave.net.