As reported in USA Today, the outgoing Bush administration appears to be trying to protect toy makers that produce toys containing dangerous chemicals, despite legislation outlawing those chemicals. Here are excerpts from the story:
Congressional supporters of a new law meant to protect children from dangerous chemicals are trying to make sure that the government enforces the legislation as they intended.
Congress in August passed a landmark consumer safety law that raises standards for toys and virtually bans several hormone-like chemicals called phthalates in products for children under 12.
Lawmakers wanted toys with the controversial chemicals to be off the market when the law takes effect Feb. 10, according to a statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-author of the ban.
Last week, however, a staff attorney at the agency responsible for carrying out the new regulations — the Consumer Product Safety Commission — released a legal opinion stating that stores may continue to sell toys with phthalates, as long as those items were made before Feb. 10. That could allow toys with phthalates to remain on the shelves for years, with no way for parents to know which toys contain the chemicals, Feinstein says.
Feinstein and others are concerned about phthalates — which are found in countless consumer products, from shower curtains to raincoats — because studies show they affect the hormone system. An October study, for example, found that baby boys born to mothers with high phthalate levels were more likely than others to have undescended testicles and small penises. Scientists say people can be exposed to phthalates through dust, and that babies can be exposed by chewing on toys such as rubber bathtub ducks.
The safety commission’s general counsel, Cheryl Falvey, has said that lawmaker’s intentions weren’t clear.
Falvey’s interpretation of the safety bill “is harmful to our children and a blatant disregard for the law,” Boxer said in a statement. “Ms. Falvey’s claim that our intent was not clear is a pathetic and transparent attempt to avoid enforcing this law. It is beyond me that as they exit the scene, this administration is still carrying out its malicious actions to weaken environmental protection for our families.”