CPSIA Update: Phthalates No Danger, or Now They Tell Us

By April 1, 2009Regulations

National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program this morning gave good play a story about science, consumer products and Congressional overreaction, “Public Concern, Not Science, Prompts Plastics Ban

Morning Edition, April 1, 2009 · A new federal ban on chemical compounds used in rubber duckies and other toys isn’t necessary, say the government scientists who studied the problem.

The ban, which took effect in February, prohibits making or selling duckies and other children’s products that contain chemicals called phthalates, which are used to make plastic soft. Congress passed the ban in 2008 after concluding that the chemicals posed a risk to children who chew on their toys.

The action came despite advice not to enact the ban from scientists at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates toys.

The commission opposed the ban because “there was not a risk of injury to children,” says Dr. Maryland Wind, deputy associate executive director for health sciences at CPSC.


A good story, as far as it goes, but how strange that it runs AFTER the law goes into effect, AFTER the economic damage has been done, and AFTER the media played along with the activist-politician alliance that drummed up fears about safe products.

Missing from the reporting is any sense of how expensive this unnecessary ban has been to manufacturers and retailers, and whether consumers have felt the impact of the withdrawn chemicals.

The story also appears to refute an earlier story run on “Morning Edition” on February 12, 2009, “New Safety Law Doesn’t Mean All’s Well In Toyland“:

Morning Edition, February 12, 2009 · A new federal law took effect this week banning chemicals called phthalates in children’s toys and other kids’ products. While the ban was hailed as a victory for children’s health, it’s no guarantee that the products are safe.

That’s because companies currently aren’t required to publicly disclose the chemicals they use in place of phthalates — and little is known about the health effects of one of the most widely used alternatives.

The chemical covered in this story in DINCH, and the February 12th story is an example of reporting that helps contribute to “consumer activists” leading a campaign: Children are in danger, chemical companies refuse to talk about their production processes, and there are scientific studies. See, Toyland is still dangerous.

The earlier online story is illustrated with a magazine cover depicting someone in a haz-mat outfit, with the word “asbestos.” Another sidebar highlights “contaminants in the home.” The implicit premise is that of the “precautionary principle” — any risk must be DISPROVED before a product can brought on the market.

The reporter in today’s story is Jon Hamilton. The February reporter was Sarah Varney.

UPDATE: Cato’s Jerry Taylor gives NPR applause, saying, “There are still a few reporters out there — even in liberal media bastions like NPR — who dare to question the party line.”

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • ~sigh~

    We are quick to criticize those who refuse to acknowledge the errors of their ways (Waxman, Rush et al). Continuing to criticize once said parties reconsider their positions that serve our mutual benefit will only encourage entrenchment of beliefs and estrangement.

    I’m a liberal working in manufacturing, neither of which are anything to be ashamed of. I’ve been a financial supporter of NPR for 25 years and a staunch opponent to CPSIA (I’d be a supporter of NAM but no one responds to my membership queries). I don’t see that these are mutually exclusive. Right wing media has it’s own “illustrious” history of downplaying CPSIA; you don’t have to look further than Fox News for the evidence (http://bit.ly/3B4JO8).

    My point is, this is a bipartisan effort and it’s time to look past partisan infighting if we want entrenched politicians and media to reconsider their positions. You cannot point fingers for presumed failures while simultaneously expecting others to willingly stand in line for servings of criticism should they do so. If it’s a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, they lose less face with the former.

  • […] say the government scientists who studied the problem.” “Now they tell us,” writes Carter Wood. More from Jonathan Adler @ Volokh and […]

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