UpdateUS Congress bans some phthalates

29 July 2008 00:45  [Source: ICIS news]

(Updates with ACC comments in paragraphs 12-15)

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Congress agreed on Monday to an outright ban on some phthalates in children’s toys and child care items and an interim prohibition on other phthalates pending further research on their impact on infant health.

Senate and House conference committee members announced the phthalates ban as part of a final bill to reform and expand the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC), the principal US watchdog agency for end-use consumer products.

The Senate and House had earlier passed separate and different measures that had to be combined in a single bill acceptable to both chambers.

“This commonsense piece of legislation takes measurable and concrete steps to protect consumers and children,” said Congressman John Dingell (Democrat-Michigan).

The commission reform bill as approved by the House-Senate conference committee boosts the CPSC’s budget to $118m (€75.5m) in fiscal year 2010, expanding to $136m in 2015.

On the phthalates issue, the legislators agreed to modified language that would permanently prohibit the sale of children’s toys or child care articles that contain more than 0.1% di-(2 ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP). 

The sale of children’s toys or child care articles containing concentrations of more than 0.1% of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) will be prohibited on an interim basis.

Whether the temporary prohibition on those three phthalates will be made permanent will be decided at some future date after a scientific review by a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP).

“We reached a sensible compromise on the use of phthalates,” said Representative Joe Barton (Republican-Texas).

“Nobody wants our kids to be the guinea pigs in a quest for better living through chemistry, but it’s also imperative that we use unbiased, confirmable science to sort out the real dangers from the mythical ones,” Barton said. 

The make-up of that advisory panel was not immediately detailed, but such advisory bodies typically include regulators, academics, scientists and others.  After the panel studies each of the three phthalates subject to the interim ban, the CPSC will then decide whether to lift the temporary prohibition in toys and child care products or make the ban permanent.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) had a mixed reaction to the legislation, saying it supported strengthening the CPSC but that the phthalates ban had no scientific merit.

"ACC supports a strong and robust CPSC that is well funded and well staffed and can address questions about consumer and toy safety,” said council vice president Sharon Kneiss.  "We all certainly share a mutual interest in the need to protect the health of children.” 

However, Kneiss said, “Our children's health and safety is too important to rush through product restrictions without understanding their full consequences, and ACC believes that restricting phthalates from children's products, when they have been deemed safe for use in those products by the CPSC, will do nothing to protect children's health”.

There is no scientific basis for Congress to restrict phthalates from toys and children's products, Kneiss said. “With over 50 years of research, phthalates are among the most thoroughly studied products in the world, and have been reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies in the US and Europe,” she said. 

The final compromise bill, called a conference report, must now be voted on by the House and Senate, but approval by both chambers is virtually assured, and President George Bush is expected to sign the measure into law.

($1 = €0.64)

(Additional reporting by Brian Ford)

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