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Remember when the Consumer Product Safety Commission finally decided to ban plastic containing phthalates? It really looked like the federal agency was going to do its job to protect consumers, didn’t it? Well, now CPSC has apparently decided to allow this hazardous petroleum-based product (read: Big Oil-approved) to stay on the shelves indefinitely. Phthalates are used in many soft plastic toys, like teething rings, rubber duckies, and other products infants will put in their mouths.

Never mind the National Research Center for Women and Families’ reports that animals exposed to phthalates have demonstrated a greater likelihood of suffering liver cancer, kidney cancer, and male genital damage, and that Harvard studies have found phthalate exposure causes developmental problems in male genitals, and that this stuff as been banned in Europe and Mexico. Never mind all that.

A report by Annys Shin of the Washington Post reveals the phthalate ban won’t begin until February 10, 2009. But the toy industry has been allowed to keep producing the toxic toys up to that point, and then these toys will be allowed to stay on store shelves until they’re sold.

Unsurprisingly, this Bush administration decision was greeted with gleeful gratitude by the toy industry:

“I’m glad to hear they are grandfathering product already in place because there is dispute about whether those phthalates are harmful, and what are they going to replace them with,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, which also represents small toy makers.

Toy Industry Association president Carter Keithley also praised the CPSC for its “careful analysis” of the law.

Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America, rightly asked, “How will parents know whether the rubber ducky they’re buying was made today and not in March?” CPSC’s response? Consumers can call a manufacturer to find out when a product was made.

Right.

And here we thought 2007 — dubbed the “Year of the Recall” — was bad. Keep an eye on this one, and look of phthalate-free labels on toys.

Flickr photo by Steve Wampler

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