Sunday, December 4, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Tosses Bush Midnight Rule Allowing Carcinogens in Kids’ Toys

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge agreed with a watchdog group that sued the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which on Nov. 17, 2008 agreed to let toymakers and makers of child-care products keep selling products with excessive levels of phthalates so long as the stuff is made before Feb. 10, 2009.

Phthalates, used in plastics, are anti-androgens; they affect hormone levels and have been linked to birth defects and cancer.

The Natural Resources Defense Council claimed the Commission's Nov. 17 "advisory opinion" letter violated laws, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which the CPSC is supposed to enforce. Both parties sought summary judgment. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe "Ordered that defendant's Nov. 17, 2008 decision regarding the phthalate prohibitions in Section 108 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act be set aside."

Phthalates are believed to be especially harmful to children, whose tissues are still developing. The chemicals' anti-androgen effects can affect male and female hormones and this, the judge noted, has been linked to a welter of health defects, including "infertility, and testicular cancer. Animal studies indicate that exposure to phthalates in utero can cause birth defects to genitalia."

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act banned the sale of "'any children's toy or child care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of' certain chemicals known as phthalates 'beginning on' Feb. 10, 2009," Judge Gardephe found.

Nonetheless, the CPSC, in another of the Bush administration's midnight gifts to industry, ruled that manufacturers and retailers need not enforce the ban on sales of toys and other products with excessive levels of phthalates if the stuff was made before Feb. 10. 2009. The judge tossed that ruling, and granted the NRDC's request for summary judgment.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.