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Children’s products containing the recently banned chemical phthalate already in stores and warehouses will be allowed to remain in the marketplace, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a decision issued November 18.

The ban, passed in August, is supposed to remain in effect until a scientific review is complete. However, the decision issued by CPSC’s general counsel Cheryl Falvey, means it will be illegal to sell products made after the ban is in place February 10, 2009 that contain types of phthalates, chemicals used in soft plastic linked to reproductive problems. Products made before February 10 will be legal to sell, even after the ban takes effect.

“That’s obviously not what was intended,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families. However, the way the law is written, the ban must be prospective, said Julie Vallese, CPSC spokeswoman. To find out whether a product was made before or after the ban, consumers can call the manufacturer, said Vallese.

Manufacturers believe the CPSC made the right decision. They would have had to spend thousands of dollars on testing for the chemicals. Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, which also represents small toymakers, was pleased “because there is dispute about whether those phthalates are harmful, and what are they going to replace them with.”

The new law contains other requirements such as new limits on lead and mandatory testing and certification that are leaving companies in the dark. Though there was a series of public forums hosted by the CPSC, businesses are still asking for more specific guidance.

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