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Friday, July 14, 2000, 12:00 p.m. EDT
After a 15-month review of safety data on seven phthalates, or plasticizers -- the chemicals used to give plastics such characteristics as flexibility and strength -- an expert panel set up by the NIEHS/NTP's Center for the Evaluation of Risks on Human Reproduction, has expressed "serious concern" about the use of one of the chemicals, DEHP, to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) medical tubing and other medical devices for feeding and medicating critically ill newborn infants. Panel members said they hoped their finding would spur industry to find a substitute material but that, at this time, DEHP-derived PVC tubing continues to be needed to support preemies and other ill newborns through life-and-death situations.
The panel, which was formed of outside and government experts, including several from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and a chair from the Environmental Protection Agency, said DEHP could leach from continuously used tubing in sufficient amount to possibly affect the development of the male infant's reproductive system. DEHP is no longer used in toys intended for mouthing - nipples, teethers, pacifiers, rattles - by U.S. manufacturers. Soft PVC teething toys have also been banned by the European Union.
The panel, working over a 15-month period, reviewed data on seven plasticizers and generally found "minimal" or "negligible" concerns about the others. A backgrounder on the panel's work is available at http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/5549.
A formal report will be written and issued in the fall.
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