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Frank Bailey
Frank Bailey
Contributor •

How Our Current Administration Loves Phthalates

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According to a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., and Public Citizen, Inc. against the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), chemicals known as phthalates are used to soften plastics in children’s toys and other common consumer products. These chemicals are known to interfere with production of the hormone testosterone and have been associated with reproductive abnormalities. Numerous studies have linked exposure to certain phthalates with decreases in testosterone, malformations of the genitalia, and reduced sperm production, among other adverse effects.

In the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, enacted on August 14, 2008, Congress permanently banned the manufacture, sale, distribution, and import of all child care articles and children’s toys containing more than 0.1 percent of any of three different phthalates.

The General Counsel for the CPSC now has given the opinion that the ban does not apply to any toy or child care product manufactured before the effective date of February 10, 2009. This decision by the CPSC authorizes sale of banned children’s products after the statute’s effective date, despite Congress’s clear prohibition on any sale after that date.

The basic purpose of the CPSA is to ensure consumer protection. It appears this purpose has been thwarted.

In a letter dated November 13, 2008, on behalf of unnamed clients, counsel at the law firm Arent Fox LLP , Georgia C. Ravitz and Scott A. Cohn, asked the CPSC to “consider not applying the phthalates restrictions retroactively to inventory as of February 10, 2009.

Amazingly, in a decision published two business days later, on November 17, 2008, the CPSC General Counsel agreed.

By permitting sale of banned products after the date of the statutory ban, the General Counsel has contradicted Congress’s clear intent.

In reliance on this decision, manufacturers of children’s toys and child care articles may continue to manufacture and stockpile products containing the restricted phthalates now and sell them long after the ban on sale goes into effect in February.

This is yet another example of how the Bush administration is looking after Corporate America at the expense of our children’s safety.

I urge you to contact your representatives and ask them to join Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein along with Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Jan Schakowsky in forcing the CPSC to withdraw this decision.