Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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Measure banning compound in toys advances

Steve Geissinger
San Jose Mercury News

SACRAMENTO -- State lawmakers sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger controversial, landmark legislation Tuesday that would make California the first state in the nation to ban what scientists are calling dangerous chemicals used in baby toys.

AB 1108, by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D--San Francisco, would prohibit the manufacture, sale and distribution of toys and child care products that contain certain phthalates. The ban would apply to products for use by children under the age of 3.

Aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he will not make a decision until he has studied the legislation, which follows the recent recall of lead--contaminated toys.

"The United States has become a dumping ground for chemical--filled toys that are banned in much of the industrialized world," Ma said. "Gov. Schwarzenegger has a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate California's leadership in the world, and I strongly urge him to sign this bill."

Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds, mainly used to add flexibility to plastics, that are being linked to diseases and disabilities.

Though there was little debate on the bill Tuesday, the measure squeaked through 21--18 in the state Senate, mostly along party lines, reflecting the heat of the debate between industry representatives and consumer and public--health advocates in earlier committee hearings.

Organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce have joined in suing San Francisco, which enacted an earlier ban on the chemical, when Ma was a county supervisor.

The industry maintains that not only does federal law trump state and local regulations in this case, but also that the chemicals have been used safely for four decades.

But proponents, including the California Nurses Association, cite an increasing number of studies they say reveals greater connections between exposure to the chemical and human disabilities and developmental diseases.

Some studies say that phthalates interfere with the hormone system and have been linked to reproductive defects, premature birth, and the early onset of puberty, which is a cause of breast cancer.

Supporters also note that other countries, such as Canada and Mexico, have already banned the chemical and other nations are moving in that direction.

Source: San Jose Mercury News