Consumer commission sued over chemicals in toys

By Martha Graybow

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two public advocacy groups sued the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Thursday, saying the commission is acting unlawfully by not planning to fully implement a new ban on toys containing toxic chemicals.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan says that, contrary to a new ban that goes into effect February 10, 2009, the CPSC has decided to allow chemical-laden toys and child-care products manufactured before that date to be sold at stores.

The ban involves products containing types of phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals linked by some medical research to health problems including abnormal reproductive development in children. The CPSC is charged with implementing the new ban.

The commission’s policy “will cause both direct harm to individuals exposed to these chemicals in children’s products and consumer confusion about which products sold in stores comply with the phthalate ban,” said the lawsuit, filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen.

The lawsuit seeks to rescind the CPSC’s decision and apply the ban to all children’s toys and products sold after February 10, regardless of what date they were manufactured.

CPSC spokesman Julie Vallese told Reuters that the commission is enforcing the law that Congress wrote.

“When it comes to safety, the CPSC does not look for loopholes,” she said. “We are fully committed to protecting families.”

The phthalates ban was included in stricter U.S. product safety rules signed into law on August 14 by President George W. Bush in response to a string of recalls of Chinese-made toys last year. Since then, consumer advocacy groups and the CPSC have argued over how to interpret parts of the law.

(Reporting by Martha Graybow; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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