Lawsuit Seeks to Enforce Ban on Toxic Toys

For Immediate Release

NRDC/Public Citizen
Contact: 

Jenny Powers, NRDC - 212-727-4566 or cell: 646-522-8949                
Joe Newman, Public Citizen - 202-588-7703

Lawsuit Seeks to Enforce Ban on Toxic Toys

Government Agency Blocks Child Safety Measures, Confuses Consumers

WASHINGTON - This lawsuit follows a recent
decision by the CPSC to create a loophole in the congressionally
mandated ban that is effective Feb. 10, 2009. The loophole allows
retailers to stockpile and continue selling dangerous products as long
as they were manufactured before the ban date. NRDC and Public Citizen
filed the suit against the CPSC in federal court in New York.

"The
Consumer Product Safety Commission is ignoring the will of Congress and
threatening our children's health," said Dr. Sarah Janssen, NRDC
scientist.  "Overwhelming evidence led Congress to ban these toys, a
ban that some retailers have already started to adopt.  The CPSC
decision completely undermines those efforts by allowing banned toys to
sit on the same shelves as the safe ones.

"Parents want
to know that the toys they're purchasing are safe - it's not too much
to ask," Janssen said. "We can't allow CPSC to continue this confusion
at the checkout aisle." 

Phthalates are chemicals used
to soften plastics in many common consumer products, including
children's toys. The chemicals are known to interfere with production
of the hormone testosterone, and have been associated with reproductive
abnormalities. Numerous animal studies have linked prenatal exposure to
certain phthalates with decreases in testosterone, malformations of the
genitalia, and reduced sperm production. 

In response to
heightened concern about risks to children from certain harmful
phthalates and other chemicals in children's products, Congress, by an
overwhelming majority, passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement
Act (CPSIA), which was signed into law by President Bush on August 14,
2008. This Act permanently bans the sale, after February 10, 2009, of
toys and child care products that contain certain phthalates and
lead. The final Senate vote for this ban was 89-3, and the final House
vote was 424-1.

The law passed in the U.S. bans the same
six phthalates that have been banned in European toys for nearly 10
years. Other countries, including Argentina, Japan, Israel and Mexico
have also banned phthalates from children's toys. Several major
retailers have previously announced that, by the end of 2008, they
would remove phthalate-containing toys from their stores.

In
a letter dated November 13, 2008, the law firm Arent Fox, on behalf of
unidentified clients, asked the CPSC to only apply the U.S. ban to the
production - and not sale - of toys with phthalates. In a legal opinion
published only two business days later, on November 17, 2008, the CPSC
General Counsel agreed. As a result, manufacturers can stockpile toys
and child care products with the banned phthalates right up to the date
of the ban, and then sell them to consumers long after the ban was
supposed to go into effect.

"Selling millions of toxic
toys to kids is not the way to dispose of them, as the law clearly
states," said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch
division, which, along with NRDC, was heavily involved in lobbying
Congress for stronger product safety rules. "It's not only immoral -
it's illegal. It is horrifying that the federal agency charged with
protecting consumers is telling the industry it can dump chemical waste
on toy-store shelves."

"It's the job of the CPSC to
protect us from harmful products, yet they have done the exact opposite
in this case - creating legal loopholes where they did not exist," said
Aaron Colangelo, NRDC attorney. "They've strayed from their basic
mandate to protect consumers."

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit public interest advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.

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