Rubber Ducky, You’re No Fun

By March 31, 2008General

With all the attention paid to litigation-encouraging attorney general provisions in the Consumer Product Reform Act’s passage in the Senate (S. 2663, but now H.R.4040) we neglected to note Sen. Diane Feinstein’s successful amendment to ban children’s toys and products containing phthalates. That’s the class of chemical used to make plastic soft and malleable, with many applications in consumer products.

The health and scientific bases for banning the phthalates are lacking, although that hasn’t stopped the Europeans, as William Duncan of the Kansas City Life Sciences Institute explains in this Washington Times column, “Political science.” In fact, the EU ban on phthalates occurred before the required scientific study was completed, which just happened to find the substance safe. Political science indeed.

Duncan also asks the very good question: What potentially even more dangerous chemicals will replace the phthalates?

Feinstein’s federal ban was inspired by legislation in California, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law last October. For the children. As American Chemical Council President Jack Gerard protested, “This law is the product of the politics of fear. It is not good science, and it is not good government. Thorough scientific reviews in this country and in Europe have found these toys safe for children to use. California businesses will now be obliged to take products off the shelves that their customers need and want.”

Yes, and as Feinstein’s amendment shows, policy blunders and blandishments that start in California often spread. Which brings us to the latest from the sponsor of the original state ban…

From the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, March 28: “Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) has introduced SB 1713 which would prohibit numerous toys and childcare articles that contain detectable levels of bisphenol-A. This expands the current prohibition on the use of phthalates to include an array of products where exposure is almost undetectable or non-existent.”

UPDATE (Wednesday, 2:40 p.m.): Sen. Migden appears to be embattled, beleagued, controversial.

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