State To Place Medical Device Additive on List of Chemicals Related to Health Risks
The California Environmental Protection Agency this week is expected to vote to place a chemical compound known as DEHP on a state list of chemicals linked to cancer or reproductive health problems, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. DEHP, a type of phthalate, is used to make plastic in medical devices more flexible. Research linking the substance to health risks prompted the decision to place the substance on the list and require companies that manufacture DEHP to inform consumers about potential risks within one year, according to the Chronicle. Recent research by the FDA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health based on exposure in rodents found that exposure to the chemical could cause harm to a male fetus' testicles during gestation and could cause harm to male infants. The American Chemistry Council, which represents phthalate manufacturers, could not be reached for comment, but its Web site states that between six billion and nine billion patient days of exposure to medical devices containing DEHP and have shown "no scientifically validated reports of serious adverse health effects in children or humans" (Kay, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/21).
Although California "has been a world leader in providing timely chemical information to workers, employers and the public," a more "precautionary approach" is needed to prevent injuries caused by chemical exposure on the job, Michael Wilson, a researcher at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California-Berkeley's School of Public Health, and James Cone, a former chief of the Occupational Health Branch of the Department of Health Services, write in a Chronicle opinion piece. The uncertainty about health risks of compounds used by employees has led to workplace injuries and the "spiraling workers' compensation costs for California businesses," Wilson and Cone write. However, the creation of an entity to address both workplace exposure and environmental pollution -- such as the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals initiative now being considered in the European Union -- would be "a step forward for businesses that are struggling to deal with complex chemical hazards and rising workers' compensation costs," Wilson and Cone conclude (Wilson/Cone, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.