US Lawmakers Agree to Ban Toxins from Toys: Report

by Thilaka Ravi on Jul 30 2008 3:33 PM

A group of chemicals in toys and other children's products that consumer groups say cause serious health effects, will soon be banned by US lawmakers, newspapers reported Tuesday.

Congressional negotiators agreed Monday on the wording of a ban after months of wrangling, according to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

The ban, part of a long-debated overhaul of US consumer safety standards, would eliminate certain phthalates used to soften plastic and commonly found in toys, shower curtains and shampoos, The Washington Post reported.

Critics believe the chemicals are linked to reproductive problems, including low sperm counts.

Certain phthalates were banned for use in children's products in Europe in 1999 and in California last year. The states of Washington and Vermont have since passed legislation on use of the chemicals.

The Wall Street Journal said some of the chemicals would be banned only temporarily under the new legislation while more research is conducted.

"Chemical additives should not be placed in products that can impact health adversely until they are tested and found to be benign," sponsor Senator Dianne Feinstein of California told the Post.

Chemical industry groups, which had financed a large-scale effort to stop the ban, criticised the move saying it could allow less-tested chemicals to be used instead.

"What's at stake is, in fact, children's safety," Elissa Stery, a vice president at Exxon Mobil Chemicals told the Post adding that manufacturers may be forced to replace phthalates with lesser-known compounds.

The wider consumer safety update, coming after a year of massive toy recalls, would also impose stricter standards and testing for products like children's jewelry, cribs and strollers, the Journal reported.

"This is by far the most robust reform in the agency's history," Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America told the Journal. "We're happy."

Lawmakers are expected to pass the new legislation, the Journal reported. The Post said President George W. Bush opposes the ban, but has not yet decided whether to veto the measure.