WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2008—Congress has finally finished work on a critically important bill that revamps our nation’s consumer product safety net. The House and Senate both passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. One part of the bill bans certain phthalates, a class of chemicals found in a variety of plastic products, in children’s toys. OMB Watch today called on President George W. Bush to sign the bill when it comes to his desk.
The phthalate provision in H.R. 4040 represents a dramatic shift in the federal government’s approach toward regulating toxic substances. "The bill turns our usual system of chemical regulation on its head by requiring proof of safety, not proof of harm, an approach we strongly support" said OMB Watch Executive Director Gary D. Bass.
Three phthalates targeted in the provision are thought to pose a risk to human health, but further study would allow experts to gain a more thorough understanding of the chemicals’ effects. The bill creates an expert panel to complete the scientific picture.
Here’s the big policy change: those three phthalates would be banned while the panel finishes its research. Usually, chemicals enter and stay on the market without regulation and are only pulled if scientists prove a definitive health risk; this often allows harmful substances to cause health effects in people before preventative measures can be taken.
"The phthalate ban contained in this bill puts public health experts, not the chemical industry, in the driver’s seat," said Matt Madia, Regulatory Policy Analyst at OMB Watch. "The president should sign this legislation as soon as possible to send a message that America places the safety of its citizens above all else." The White House has indicated the president will sign the bill.
OMB Watch encourages Congress to expand on its progress and explore applying this safety-first approach in other areas. "The best approach to ensuring consumer safety is to make sure products are safe in the first place," Bass added. "If we wait to take action while policymakers and industry lobbyists wrangle over whether a product causes harm, too many consumers will be at risk for too long."