Protecting Brain Development in Children: Phthalates in Food & the Critical Need for Policy Reform

November 16, 2022
2:00 pm US Eastern Time



Download our Webinar Highlights fact sheet for key findings and quotes from this webinar. You can view a video recording here.

The widespread use of phthalates in consumer products leads to ubiquitous and constant exposure of humans to these chemicals. Pre-natal and childhood exposures to phthalates have been documented to adversely affect child brain development including associations with ADHD and lower IQ, as well as more well-known harms to male reproductive tract development. Young children, babies, and pregnant mothers are the most susceptible to adverse effects of phthalates, and bans are recommended to keep phthalates out of children’s toys and childcare products.

In this webinar, Katherine O’Brien and Rashmi Joglekar from Earthjustice presented on recent and ongoing resistance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to restrict the presence of this class of chemicals from the US food supply and legal action being taken over the last six years to correct this.

In December 2021, Earthjustice filed two lawsuits seeking to compel FDA to complete long overdue decisions on petitions submitted in 2016, asking the agency to revoke its existing approvals for food-contact uses of phthalates and ban eight phthalates as food-additives. The suits were filed on behalf of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Environmental Defense Fund, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Defend Our Health. .

Six years after their submission, and in direct response to this legal action, FDA issued final decisions on both petitions in May 2022. In June Earthjustice submitted a response to FDA on behalf of these objecting organizations, detailing factual and legal errors in the federal decision to deny these petitions. This policy reform would help reduce our collective phthalate exposure and lessen the impacts of this chemical on child brain development.

Featured Speakers


Katherine O’Brien, JD, is a senior attorney with Earthjustice’s Toxic Exposure and Health Program.Prior to this position, Katherine, was an attorney in the Northern Rockies regional office for seven years and recieved her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 2012.



Rashmi Joglekar, PhD, is a staff scientist with Earthjustice’s Toxic Exposure and Health Program and holds a Ph.D. from the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program at Duke University where she specialized in neurodevelopmental toxicology.



This call was hosted by the CHE-Alaska Partnership, which is coordinated by Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT).