Thursday, August 14, 2008

An August Miracle

This little press release just pinged in my inbox.

President Signs Phthalate Ban into Law
Major milestone reached for children’s health and for chemical regulation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Bush signed a federal bill today that bans six toxic phthalates from children’s products. His signature bolsters Congress’ overwhelming support for this legislation, and sends a clear message that toxic chemicals have no place in toys.

The phthalate ban, a provision of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act, will protect children from these harmful plastic-softening chemicals which are linked to breast cancer, decreased sperm counts, birth defects and other health problems. Advocates see this legislation as a first step toward broader chemical policy reform. “Congress got a glimpse into how chemicals are regulated in this country and saw how broken the system is,” said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund. “The phthalate ban is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s needed to protect Americans from unsafe chemical exposures.”

The Breast Cancer Fund led a national coalition of parents, health care professionals and environmental health advocates that convinced Congress to pass the phthalate ban, despite aggressive lobbying by the chemical industry. “This is a David and Goliath victory,” said Nudelman. “Public health advocates and parents were up against big oil and the chemical industry, and we won. This should serve as a wake-up call to industry: chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects have no place in consumer products.”

Key legislators heeded parents’ and advocates’ concerns and brought the issue into the legislative arena. Champions include Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who authored the original Senate amendment on phthalates, as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer and Reps. Henry Waxman, Jan Schakowsky and Diana DeGette, who strongly advocated for the ban among their Congressional colleagues.

This legislative action is a direct response to a growing movement of parents, scientists and advocates who are raising concerns about unsafe chemicals in consumer products. Months before Congress took action, retailers and manufacturers including Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, Lego, Evenflo and Gerber responded to consumer outcry by announcing plans to phase out phthalates in toys. In the past year, California, Washington and Vermont restricted phthalate use in children’s products.

“Public awareness is at an all-time high,” said Nudelman. “Consumers are saying that the products we buy must be safe, period. The phthalate ban is a great start, and an indication that Congress is ready to consider the kind of sweeping chemical policy reform that is needed.”

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