Fiona Ma for State Assembly

No Child's Play: Calif. first state to ban chemical often found in toys

SACRAMENTO -- Challenging the Bush administration's record on protecting children from dangerous chemicals, state Assembly Majority Whip Fiona Ma hailed California's recent ban on toys and baby products containing more than a trace amount of a chemical used to soften plastics that scientists have linked to health problems.

"There is not sufficient oversight from the federal government in terms of trying to protect kids from chemicals," said Ma, D-San Francisco, the bill's author. "This chemical has been banned in other countries, and this is the best course of action we can take to start bringing attention to chemicals in the [American] market. I have a young 5-year-old niece, and toxic toys are an obvious concern. I hope this will cause manufacturers to start producing better and safer products."

The ban on phthalate makes California the first state to impose severe limits on a chemical that is widely used in baby bottles, soft baby books, teething rings, plastic bath ducks and other toys.
"I think parents will be comforted that when they buy one of these chewy products it will be safe," Ma said on Oct. 14, after the bill was signed into law.

Beginning in 2009, any product made for children under age 3 that contains more than one tenth of one percent of phthalates cannot be made, sold or distributed in California.
Oregon, Maryland and New York are also considering bills that would ban phthalates in certain products. Ma announced that she will work with national organizations and other states on a national campaign to remove toxic toys from store shelves across the entire country.

"California continues to lead the nation in protecting children from dangerous chemicals and in safeguarding our environment," Ma said. "AB 1108 sends a clear message to the Consumer Product Safety Commission that if the Bush administration won't act, states will."

Representatives from the toy industry have said the amount of toxic chemicals and exposure periods for children's toys are so low that they aren't a health hazard.

Phthalates, which are chemicals added to plastic to make it soft and flexible, have been banned by the European Union and at least 14 other countries, after studies found that the chemical interferes with hormones and might lead to early puberty, reproduction defects and other health problems.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.