By Avinash Kar, Natural Resources Defense Council
Finally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has to make a decision it should have made more than two years ago. It took a lawsuit to force the agency to decide, by October 18 of this year, whether to ban several toxic phthalates in children’s products—a decision the CPSC was obligated to make by January 2015 (at the latest).
NRDC and its partners — Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly Breast Cancer Fund)—reached a settlement with CPSC. The agreement set a deadline for the agency to decide which phthalates to ban from children’s products, but it does not dictate the result.
Phthalates are commonly used as a plastic softener in children’s toys and child care products, such as teething rings. Several studies of children have linked phthalates exposure to interference with hormone production and reproductive development. In 2008, Congress banned a number of phthalates in children’s products. It also directed the CPSC to form an expert scientific panel to assess other phthalates and recommend action. In late 2014, based on the advice of those scientific experts, the CPSC proposed to ban five types of phthalates in children’s products due to the health risks. But the agency never finalized that rule, despite a deadline under the law that has long passed.
Much of the delay can be laid at the feet of chemical companies, like Exxon Mobil, that manufacture phthalates, and trade groups like the National Association of Manufacturers. Companies that manufacture and import phthalates have pursued profits at the expense of the health of children and pregnant women. They moved repeatedly to delay CPSC action. They even tried to block the settlement NRDC and its partners made with CPSC on a deadline for action.
We are pleased that the District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the National Association of Manufacturers’ efforts to block the settlement. The Court saw through industry’s baseless claims that people are no longer exposed to the phthalates CPSC has proposed to ban, and agreed with the evidence NRDC and our partners presented, showing that people, including pregnant women and children, are still exposed to these dangerous chemicals.
The CPSC proposed in 2014 to ban five phthalates to eliminate serious risks of reproductive health harm, especially in baby boys. Its proposal is fully supported by existing science.
We hope and expect that when the agency makes its final decision by October 18, it will finalize the rule on phthalates as proposed.