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Two consumer groups, the Natural Resouces Defense Council and Public Citizen, have filed a lawsuit against the Consumer Product Safety Commision, claiming that the CSPC is not correctly implementing a Congressional ban on phthalates in children’s products.

Phthalates, which studies have shown can harm early childhood development, are added to hard plastics to make them more flexible. Congress banned the use of phthalates in children’s toys and child-care products as part of a major overhaul of consumer product safety regulations in August.

The ban takes effect starting on February 10, 2009. Based on the way the CPSC intends to apply the rule, manufacturers will be able to stockpile toys and child care products with the banned phthalates right up to the date of the ban, and then sell them to consumers long after the ban was supposed to go into effect. With millions of plastic toys containing phthalates already in warehouses and on shelves, that’s good news for manufacturers, but bad news for consumers.

The two consumer groups are asking for an order making the ban retroactive; that is, applying the ban to all products. David Arkush of Public Citizen says of the ban "selling millions of toxic toys to kids is not the way to dispose of them . . . ." Congressional hearings are scheduled on this question, maybe as early as next week, and some members of Congress have already said that the CSPC is not carrying out the ban the way Contress intended.

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