Do they want girly boys? Why else not get toxic toys off the shelves?

In September Congress passed a ban on toys containing phthalates, a group of chemicals that has been shown to delay or distort development of sexual organs in boys.

For instance, one recent study demonstrates the potentially devastating effect of this hormone-like chemical on male infants.

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.

The ban on phthalates was supposed to take effective February 10, 2009 — at least that is what Congressional leaders like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) thought would happen.

But not so fast, says the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the Federal agency charged with protecting the public from dangerous products.

Despite clear Congressional intent to remove the toxic toys containing phthalates from store shelves, a lawyer working for the agency has ruled that the February 10 date only applied to the manufacture of the toxic toys.  The toys could stay on the shelves so long as they were manufactured prior to the Congressional limit of Feb 10.

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.

One example where dangerous items have been pulled from the shelves would be flammable pajamas for infants and children.  These products were pulled from the shelves and not allowed to be sold irregardless of the date of manufacture.  The same for certain types of infant cribs where the slats were too far apart and infants could get their heads stuck.  These cribs were banned and pulled from store shelves.  To this day there are disclaimers on classified ads for children’s furniture warning of the hazard from older products.

Cheryl Falvey, the General Counsel for the Consumer Product Safety Commission claims that the intent of the law was not clear despite the evidence in the Congressional record to the contrary.

Senator Barbara Boxer  (D-CA), Feinstein’s colleague,  vehemently disagrees with Falvey’s interpretation of the law banning phthalates in toys.

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.”

If the Consumer Products Safety Commission really cared about the safety and health of America’s children, they would move swiftly and decisively to protect them from the known dangers of phthalates and enforce the Congressional intent to remove products containing these toxic chemicals from store shelves.  As it is parents and grandparents will have no way of knowing whether the toys they are buying are safe or not.

This is reminiscent of the Thalidomide controversy:  because of the reluctance to remove the sedative from store shelves and warn pregnant women of the dangers from taking the drug, a generation of deformed children were born.  Many of these could have been prevented with earlier action by the government.

Do we need to see a generation of ‘girly’ boys before the laughably named Consumer Products Safety agency does its job and takes these toxic toys off the shelves?

Explore posts in the same categories: Bush administration, consumer protection, phthalates, politics, toxic toy ban

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