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On December 4th, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in an attempt to keep toxic toys containing phthalates off shelves. A new bill banning the manufacturing of toys containing phthalates goes into effect February 10, 2009. However, the bill has a dangerous loophole in that the ban only requires manufacturers to stop making the toys, but does not require stores to pull the toxic toys from their shelves.

Phthalates, which are used to soften plastic in children’s toys (pdf), are known to cause serious health problems. In particular, studies have shown phthalates are linked with reproductive and brain damage and have even been coined the phrase "endocrine disruptors" because they mimic hormones in the body disrupting the body’s natural process. The United States is far behind on the ban of these dangerous chemicals, as European countries have banned these toys for over ten years in the interests of child safety.

The bill, Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed both the House and Senate by a landslide-only four members of Congress opposed. The CPSIA allows stores to fill their shelves with phthalate-laced toys prior to February 10, 2009, and then sell toxic toys side-by-side with safe toys. The lawsuit claims the Consumer Product Safety Commission failed to uphold their duty to protect consumers by allowing this dangerous loophole to exist.

Although some stores such as Wal-mart, Toys-R-Us, Lego, Evenflo and Gerber, have already begun to ban toys with phthalates, just to be on the safe side, consumers should take extra caution when purchasing products that may contain phthalates, and be sure to look for "phthalate-free" versions.

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