Congress Needs to Ensure Ban on Toxic Toys Is Implemented

Posted May 20, 2009 at 10:56am

As of February, it is no longer legal to sell a toy or child care product containing certain toxic industrial plasticizers known as phthalates, which leach from toy to child when mouthed and are linked to reproductive disorders and cancer. This phthalates ban — part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George W. Bush last summer — is a major milestone in consumer safety. So why in the world are some people trying to undermine this important law? [IMGCAP(1)]Elements backed by the chemical industry continue their efforts to undermine the law by rehashing tired and outdated arguments about the science on phthalates. The fact is, the science on the toxicity of phthalates is strong and safe alternatives exist. Congress closely examined the scientific studies, considered the alternatives (which have been in use in the European Union since it banned phthalates in toys in 1999), extensively debated the merits of a ban and almost unanimously agreed that the overwhelming weight of the evidence justified a ban on phthalates in toys and child care articles.In fact, Congressional action lagged behind the marketplace, where there was already significant voluntary movement away from the use of phthalates in toys. Over a year ago, retailers and manufacturers including Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, Lego, Evenflo and Gerber had announced plans to phase out or eliminate the sale or manufacture of these toxic toys.Right now, the Consumer Product Safety Commission — the agency charged with the ban’s implementation — is in the process of assembling an outside panel of experts, called the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel, to conduct an in-depth safety assessment of three phthalates that were provisionally banned and determine whether they should be permanently banned.The Bush-era CPSC leadership, which has again and again proven its willingness to prioritize business interests over children’s health, has attempted to delay implementation of the phthalate ban and should not be in charge of assembling CHAP. President Barack Obama’s recent nominations of Inez Moore Tenenbaum as chairman and Robert Adler as a new commissioner need swift confirmation so that the CPSC can properly implement the law and ensure a transparent CHAP selection process.Our children deserve the safest products possible, and the bipartisan law approved by Congress in 2008 provides that safety. Now, let’s ensure we have the leadership needed to protect kids by implementing the law as Congress intended.Sarah Janssen is a staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.