Calif. Toxic Toy Ban Passes Senate; Will Governor Sign?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The state Senate has passed legislation that would ban a list of toxic chemicals from toys sold in California. One of the chemicals in question is Phthalates, which is found in most plastics. Now it heads to the governor's desk, though it is uncertain if he will sign it.

Despite the recent headlines of major recalls of lead-tainted toys, a proposed state ban of a different chemical used in toys was not a slam dunk -- it took a lot of arm twisting on the state Senate floor all Tuesday afternoon, and only late in the evening did the last two "yes" votes came in.

Phthalates are used to soften plastics and have been linked to reproductive damage in lab animals.

"There are countries in Europe --14 other countries -- that have banned this chemical," said state Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter. "We're simply asking for an 'Aye' vote."

Most Republican senators and some moderate Democrats voted no because the last study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded the most common Phthalate, DINP, is safe and that few children were at risk.

"The Feds have a lot more resources to put into this thing than we do. And if they studied it and said it's not a problem right now, I think we got to go along with that," said state Senator Dick Ackerman, R-Irvine.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma wrote the bill and desperately worked the floor to save it. But even though she got the votes she needed, she's not sure Governor Schwarzenegger will sign it, because she wouldn't make changes.

"We've been working with the administration on some amendments. However, talks broke down," said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.

No matter the fate of the Phthalates ban, Assemblywoman Ma will introduce a ban on lead-tainted toys next year.

Parents like Kathi Miller just want some help in keeping their kids safe.

"You think, 'This is safe, this is safe.' It's got to be. And then you find out it's not," said Miller. "It's scary."

Until more scientific research can be done, the Consumer Products Safety Commission asked the industry to remove Phthalates from soft rattles and teethers as a precaution. For now it is voluntary.

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