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Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act Needs Overhaul

With the start of the school year only days away, millions of American kids are eagerly scrambling to fill their backpacks popular items ranging from Hannah Montana lunchboxes to Optimus Prime notebooks. But as parents flood the malls to make sure their kids are back to school ready it is important they are aware of a significant change in this year’s back to school shopping.

It will be one year on August 14th since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was signed into law which was implemented last February. This law puts restrictions on several children’s items, including the amount of lead and phthalates that can be included in products intended for children, including all those back to school essentials. This law includes restrictions on items ranging from ball point pens to toys to children’s shoes.

While this law was well intended and made many strides in improving the safety of children’s products, we still have far to go to make the CPSIA effective for children’s safety.

We at the Child Safety Task Force recognize the good intentions of the legislation, but its unintended consequences have created unnecessary financial burdens and confusion for small business while ironically increasing risk for the small children the law was supposed to protect. Some of the problems with this new law include high testing costs and other burdens on small businesses and questions how to enforce new restrictions on resale items and charitable organizations

One of the most serious problems with the CPSIA is the new phthalate requirements. These are chemical compounds used as softening agents or “plasticizers” in the manufacture of plastic products, including many toys and other children’s products. Phthalates were incorrectly linked with lead and other toxins found in imported Chinese toys. This error was magnified by the CPSIA’s temporary ban on certain phthalates which have been tested and proven safe.

This temporary ban on phthalates should be a cause for concern to parents. The replacement of safe chemicals with untested substances opens up children to unknown risks and potential dangers. Nowhere is this irony more painful than in the case of the phthalate known as DINP. Years of studies by government agencies, including the National Toxicology Program and Consumer Product Safety Commission itself, have confirmed and re-confirmed that exposure to the DINP used in toys presents no health risk to children. But thanks to the temporary phthalate ban in the CPSIA, manufactures are forced to replace DINP and use substitute chemicals that have not been tested and approved for use by a government agency.

Concerned parents should contact the CPSC and their Congressional representatives to urge them to take immediate action on this issue. Eliminating the temporary phthalate ban should be a priority for those serous about repairing the CPSIA. Towards that end, the CPSC needs to expedite the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) the law charges it with conducting on DINP and certain other phthalates as well as on alternatives to these phthalates.

It’s a rare piece of legislation that doesn't need improvements once the reality of its enforcement becomes clear, so the problems of the CPSIA are understandable. But it would be inexcusable if we find ourselves still discussing the same problems on the second anniversary of CPSIA a year from now.

For more information on the CPSIA, please visit our website to view our parents’ guide to the CPSIA.


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