Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | August 1, 2008

New consumer law protects all of God’s children in America from lead and phthalates in products

rubber ducky

I, as well as you, remember the recall of Thomas the Tank engine last fall for high lead levels. And some of you might have read my post on lead in toy Easter eggs last spring for high levels of lead. Hopefully this will be the last Christmas season that we will have to worry about if the lead levels in children’s toys are safe or whether or not the phthalates in the yellow rubber duckies will cause damage to the reproductive systems of boys and girls.

Last night the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act with a vote of 89-3. The bill passed through the joint House-Senate conference committee a week ago, and the House passed it on Tuesday with a vote of 424-1. This bill is overall a huge victory for children’s health and, after 2008, it will make toys and products geared towards children twelve and under that contain lead and phthalates safer. I pray that this is only one step towards securing product safety for the most vulnerable in our society- children, women, and communities of color. It is through prophetic witness from the faith community in partnership with nurses, doctors, and public health advocates that we took this first step.

Highlights of the bill
-This bill bans six phthalates in children’s products up to age twelve. Three are permanently banned and three are banned for a year and a half to two years until further study of these chemicals can prove if they are safe. What is significant about this decision is that Congress chose to apply the precautionary principle and remove the chemicals of concern until proven safe. In the meantime, the chemicals of concern will be replaced with safer alternatives.

Scientific studies link phthalates to early puberty in girls, damage to young male reproductive organs and sperm quality, reproductive dysfunction, obesity, and type II diabetes.

-This bill also ratchets down lead limits from 600ppm to 100ppm in children’s toys and jewelry, and to 90ppm in lead paint over a three-year period. While not meeting the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the standards are six times stronger than our current standard and makes the policy mandatory rather than voluntary. The AAP came out today in support of the legislation as well.

-The bill directs the CPSC to establish within two years a searchable database to include any reports of injuries, illness, death or risk related to consumer products submitted by consumers, government offices, physicians or child care providers. This will be a useful source of public information for parents.

Concerns about the bill
-The bill contains a state pre-emption clause. This means that federal law trumps all state laws. On the one hand, it means that states that had no law or weaker laws have to comply with this stronger standard. But on the other hand, it means that states that have stronger legislation (such as Washington) or that were working for stronger legislation, will not be able to further improve lead or phthalates product standards. Efforts to remove the pre-emption clause did not make it out of the joint conference report.

We will continue to lift up the Christian witness to protect the most vulnerable among us so that all people can play and work free of toxic exposure and so that God’s Creation can flourish.

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