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Landmark Federal Ban on Phthalates in Toys Set to Take Effect

Parents, health advocates cheer; warn proper implementation requires overhaul of CPSC leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 9, 2009
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 415-346-8223 x14 / 415-336-2246 cell

San Francisco — As of tomorrow it will be illegal to manufacture and sell toys and childcare articles made with phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals linked to breast cancer, infertility and other health problems. The federal ban, a provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that was signed into law last August, is a legislative response to the growing movement of parents, scientists and advocates who are raising concerns about unsafe chemicals in consumer products.

“Getting phthalates out of toys is a giant step for consumer-safety and public health, and now we need to keep the momentum going,” said Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund, which led a national campaign to support the ban. “Congress recognized the urgent need to get this toxic chemical out of toys and, in the process, got a glimpse of how poorly chemicals are regulated in the U.S.”

While most are welcoming the new consumer safety protections, many are concerned that the current leadership of the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- the agency charged with implementation -- is creating a climate of confusion and contributing to efforts to undermine the law. Parents and health advocates are calling for the immediate appointment of new leadership at the CPSC so as to help implement the law as intended and to provide common-sense and rigorous interpretations of the law.

Members of Congress who championed the bill have also weighed in on the historic nature of the bill, and the need for effective implementation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who authored the original Senate amendment on phthalates, said today, “I am very pleased that beginning tomorrow, any toy or childcare product that can be placed in a child’s mouth will no longer be sold containing dangerous phthalates. And no toy or product aimed at children ages 12 and younger may contain lead. This is a major step forward in reassessing how this nation regulates chemicals in consumer products. People should be protected from chemicals until we know for sure that they are safe for use.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who championed the legislation in the House, said, “We can’t lose sight of the law’s goal and Congressional intent -- to protect our kids’ health and safety. I hope that we will soon have a new CPSC Chair who is committed to effective enforcement of the law and to the mission of consumer protection.”

Building on the momentum of the phthalates ban, parent groups and health advocates are backing legislation that will restrict exposure to bisphenol A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to breast cancer and is used in plastic baby and water bottles, as well as in the lining of food and infant formula cans.

“Public demand for reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals is at an all-time high,” said Nudelman. “Consumers are saying that the products we buy must be safe, period. Scientists are saying we have enough evidence of harm to act. And Congress is poised to enact smarter, comprehensive laws that reduce our toxic exposures and protect our health.”

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The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. www.breastcancerfund.org