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EU Bans Penis-Shrinking Chemical; America Does Not

The European Union today banned a variety of dangerous chemicals that the United States is still using freely. Time to catch up, America.

Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, better known as DEHP, is a cheap plasticizer used in the production of PVC. It's also toxic and, in a 2008 study from the University of Rochester, was associated with "smaller penis size, incomplete descent of testes, and a shorter, less typically masculine distance between the anus and genitals in baby boys" whose mothers showed increased levels of the stuff. In other words, it's not safe, and today the European Union banned it from all household plastics. Why won't America do that?

In 2008, America banned DEHP from toys and child care products, but it's still allowed to flourish in a variety of housewares. And because DEHP has been known to leach into liquids with which it comes in contact—and because liquids that are then consumed—it's actually quite easy for people to ingest far too much of it (especially considering that any may be too much).

With this undoubtedly in mind, the EU today banned DEHP and the other phthalates BBP and DBP. Also outlawed were the fragrance Musk Xylene, the flame-retardant HBCDD, and the epoxy resin-hardener MDA. "Chemicals are everywhere in the modern world and some of them can be very dangerous," said the EU's environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik. "Today's decision is an important step toward better protecting our health and the environment."

Alas, Americans can still find DEHP in a variety of office and medical supplies, and even plastic drinking bottles. Until we catch up to our European neighbors, pregnant mothers, especially those having sons, would probably be wise to avoid DEHP at all costs.

photo (cc) via Flickr user Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

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