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Bill banning chemical in toys passes

Certain phthalates that make plastic flexible are believed to put children at risk, but critics say brittle products could crack and cause injuries.

September 05, 2007|Patrick McGreevy and Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writers

Worried that toddlers and infants might be unnecessarily exposed to toxics in plastic toys, state lawmakers Tuesday sent to the governor's desk a partial ban on the use of one potentially harmful chemical.

The state Senate also approved a bill that would outlaw the use of lead ammunition in hunting big game and coyotes in the habitat of endangered condors, amid concern that 11 of the birds have been removed to the Los Angeles Zoo with lead poisoning since February.

And the Assembly voted to ban the sale of food containing artificial trans fat in school vending machines or anywhere else on school campuses. The bill, SB 490 by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would apply to kindergarten through 12th grades. After passing 49 to 22, it returns to the Senate for agreement on amendments.

The actions closed out a busy day during which 83 bills were approved by the Senate.

One hotly contested measure was AB 1108, which prohibits the use of certain phthalates in toys and child-care products designed for children younger than 3 years old. The bill by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) was approved on a 21-18 vote of the Senate after barely passing in the Assembly.

"The United States has become a dumping ground for chemical-filled toys that are banned in much of the industrialized world," Ma said. "Gov. Schwarzenegger has a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate California's leadership in the world, and I strongly urge him to sign this bill."

Phthalates are on California's Proposition 65 list as known to cause reproductive toxicity.

The bill follows the lead of Canada and Mexico in banning the chemical. The United States is the only place in North America where phthalates-laced products can be purchased for newborns and infants, she said.

Phthalates are often used to make plastic flexible for use in items such as nipples for baby bottles, but some studies have linked them to testicular and liver damage.

The measure was opposed by the Toy Industry Assn., the California Chamber of Commerce and other groups on grounds that it was unnecessary. Opponents cited a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study that determined that children were not at risk with plastic toys. Critics of the bill said use of other chemicals would result in more brittle plastics that can crack and injure children.

Concern about health risks also drove the debate on AB 821, by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), which bans the use of lead ammunition in condor habitats.

With only about 300 California condors left, 17 of the birds statewide have been found in recent months with lead poisoning, believed to be the result of feeding on carcasses of animals shot by hunters, Nava said.

"We have an opportunity to save a legendary bird, a tie to our past, through a relatively simple change in behavior, which is to use non-lead ammunition in habitat areas," said Nava in an interview after the 23-15 vote.

Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) argued that such action would hurt the state's economy, because many hunters, according to one survey, would no longer hunt.

"This bill will definitely have a negative impact on the state," said Hollingsworth, adding that lead contamination can reach birds from objects besides ammunition.

In further action, the Senate approved:

* AB 702, enacting the Truth in Music Advertising Act, which makes it illegal to advertise or conduct a live musical performance without any of the original band members unless the performers have permission or the right to do so. This bill emerged after some original members of the Coasters sued to block a group from performing with the name.

* AB 976, which prohibits a city or county from enacting an ordinance that compels a landlord to inquire, compile, report or disclose information about the citizenship or immigration status of a tenant.

The Assembly also approved a measure that would give the city of Los Angeles an additional seat on the South Coast Air Quality Management District and delete term limits for the district's chair, thus allowing chair William A. Burke, a Los Angeles County resident, to extend his stay.

SB 886 by Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-Chino) passed 43 to 19 and returns to the Senate for agreement on amendments.

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