August 2, 2008

Congress Sends Bill Banning Lead in Toys

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate on Thursday passed and sent to the White House legislation that bans lead from children's toys and seeks to ensure that chemicals posing possible health problems will not end up on toys and articles that kids chew on and play with.

The Senate, stymied by partisan differences over the energy crisis, put aside those differences momentarily to vote 89-3 for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The House passed the bill Wednesday by 424-1, a reflection of the national outcry over a rash of recalls last year of toys and children's products contaminated by lead and other dangerous elements.

"We are going to make a big, big difference in the American marketplace," said Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., a sponsor of the bill.

The administration has objected to parts of the bill, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday that President Bush would sign it. "We are ensuring that the products that come into America are safe for consumers and that the regulating agencies have what they need to do their job," she said.

The bill would impose the toughest lead standards in the world, banning lead beyond minute levels in products for children 12 or younger. Lead paint was a major factor in the recall of 45 million toys and children's items last year, including Cookie Monster toys and Tommy the Tank Engines. Many came from China.

It also bans, either permanently or pending further study, children's goods containing six types of a chemical called phthalates that are widely used to make plastic products softer and more flexible. The chemical industry insisted that phthalates have been used for decades and there is no evidence they pose health risks to humans.

But consumer advocacy groups pointed out that the European Union has banned the six phthalates and that tests on rats have revealed possible reproductive problems and cancer.

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