Short story: If you make or sell plastic or vinyl children's products, you can forget whatever plans you made for the weekend.
Slightly longer story: The Natural Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen sued the CPSC over exceptions the Commission made last November to the CPSIA, the new law that bans lead and phthalates in children's products. Lead's got a lot of attention, but phthalates, not so much. It's a group of chemicals used as softeners in plastic and vinyl, and it can screw up kids' hormones and reproductive systems. Especially boys.
A US district judge just ruled that the CPSC was wrong in basically every way when it told manufacturers and retailers that prohibitions on phthalates set to take effect Feb. 10--that's next Tuesday!--did not apply to existing inventory, i.e., the stuff on the shelves and in the warehouses right now. It totally does, says the judge. And all that stuff will be illegal to sell as of Tuesday.
What products and companies will be affected? Who knows? I'd hope that by now, any company with plastic or vinyl products knows if their products contain phthalates, if only because their manufacturing process is supposed to go phthalate-free in five days. But does that mean they know enough to tell retailers and distributors which products to pull off the shelves? What about those random plastic things from ye random Hong Kong toymaker? It's not like store managers have had a peaceful, contented few months to contemplate the chemical makeup of their bath toy department.
Unless retailers and producers had some contingency plan in place, the next few days could be a frenzied shitstorm of shelf-clearing and triage. Maybe retailers will have a fire sale, but what are they going to say? "Quick, buy this product before it's declared a health hazard!"? "One more plastic toy probably won't give your kid get testicular cancer!"
If only the government would set up a bailout fund for the Kid Industrial Complex, and help them clear the toxic assets [no kidding this time] from their books--or at least help them ship the stuff to some hapless foreign country with an underdeveloped regulatory regime.
Court Agrees: Phthalates are banned from toys effective next week! [nrdc.org via their publicist]
Download the Court's CPSC smackdown in PDF [daddytypes]