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Fruit-Head Dolls Cancer Warning

Outline
Circulating social media message warns that "Fruit-Head" dolls sold at some market stalls may contain chemical phthalates which can cause cancer, deformity in unborn babies and infertility in men.

True

© Depositphotos.com/ panama555



Brief Analysis
The claims in the message are valid. Reliable reports indicate that Fruit-Head dolls containing the chemical have been recently found at market stalls in the UK. While the health effects of phthalates are not yet fully understood, they are known to disrupt the body’s hormones and exposure has been linked to cancer, developmental problems and fertility issues. Phthalates are banned in several jurisdictions.

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Example

PLEASE BE AWARE THESE DOLLS HAVE BEEN ON SALE IN LONGTON MARKET,IF YOU HAVE BOUGHT ONE OF THESE,PLEASE CONTACT TRADING STANDARDS AT THE EARLIEST CONVENIENCE....PLEASE SHARE THIS AND LET EVERYONE KNOW

The Fruit-head dolls containing the chemical phthalates which can cause cancer, deformity in unborn babies and infertility in men

IVE BOUGHT SEVERAL AND WILL BE CONTACTING TRADING STANDARDS ASAP!"


Detailed Analysis



A message currently travelling via social media warns users to watch out for "fruit-head" dolls that might be sold at markets. The message warns that the dolls may contain the chemical phthalates, which it states can cause cancer, deformity in unborn babies and infertility in men. The message, which originated in the UK, suggests that, should people see one of the dolls for sale, they should report the sighting to Trading Standards.

The claims in the warning are valid. A December 15, 2013 BBC article noted:

Dangerous toy dolls containing chemicals that may cause cancer and deformities in unborn babies have been seized from a market stall in Medway.
The "fruit-head" dolls have strawberry, apple, tomato or blackcurrant-shaped heads, and contain phthalates, which can also cause infertility in men.
It is thought that the dolls are regularly sold at other markets and discount stores in the UK.  Seizures of the dolls have been reported previously.

And the problem is not limited to the UK or to fruit-head dolls. A November 2013 KATU.com article noted:

Federal officials seized more than 200,000 toy dolls at ports in Portland and other cities because they had high levels of a chemical banned in the United States.

The ten shipments of toy baby dolls contained high levels of 
phthalates, according U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. All of the dolls were from China.

Phthalates are banned in children’s toys in the United States. American toy producers 
stopped using them in 1999, although the chemicals are found in other consumer products.

Certain types of phthalates have been banned in the US, Europe and elsewhere. The chemicals have been used in many types of products, including toys, in which they help to soften plastics.

The full human health effects of phthalates are not completely understood. However, evidence suggests that exposure to the chemicals may be linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility and other significant health issues. A report on the chemicals on Tox Town notes:

The human health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known but are being studied by several government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. 

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the Twelfth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.
And a Breast Cancer Fund article on phthalates explains:
Phthalates, pronounced THAL-ates, soften plastics and are known to disrupt the body’s hormones. A 2012 study found that women working in the automotive and food-canning industries have nearly a fivefold increase in risk for premenopausal breast cancer, likely because of their exposure to phthalates, BPA and flame-retardants. Phthalates have also been linked to birth defects, asthma, neurodevelopmental problems in newborns, fertility issues and obesity.
If children chew on toys containing phthalates, they may absorb the chemical through their mouths.

Thus, consumers should certainly be wary of plastic toys bought via less regulated markets such as street stalls and discount outlets.

In reality, given that there are many types of phthalates and they are found in many types of products, avoiding the chemicals completely may be quite a tall order.

Unfortunately, due to its ALL CAPS format, a quite common indicator of hoaxes and other Internet based flotsam, some recipients will likely dismiss the warning as nonsense. However, all caps or not, in this case the message is valid and worth heeding.

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Last updated: December 16, 2013
First published: December 16, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
Cancer chemicals found in 'fruit-head' dolls in Medway
Cancer-causing toy dolls seized at market
Toy dolls shipped to Portland seized because of banned chemicals
Tox Town - Phthalates
Cancer Fund - Phthalates
How to Avoid Phthalates (Even Though You Can't Avoid Phthalates)




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