A federal judge in South Carolina yesterday blocked the government from enforcing against one fabric mill a ban on children's sleepwear treated with Tris, a chemical fire retardant linked with cancer. The judge said he would also try to temporarily stop the government's action nationwide.
District Court Judge Robert F. Chapman said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had not followed its own rules and procedures in banning Tris and ordering retailers, garment manufactureres and textile mills to repurchase unwashed Tris goods.
At a hearing in Greenville, Chapman told lawyers for the agency: "I enjoin you from taking any action with respect to Tris." But later, in a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Chapman said, "There is some [legal] question I can go that far."
He said he was researching the matter and would file a written order today on whether his temporary injunction, pending a full hearing June 13, would apply only to any commission steps against Springs Mills, Inc., or to allthe comission's actions on Tris-treated children' sleepwear. "If I can find a way to make it apply to everyone, I will," Chapman said in the interview. "I feel so strongly about what they did."
Springs Mills had sought the injuction on the grounds that the commission had not followed required procedures and that the repurchase of Tris goods would irreparably harm the company.
Springs Mills, which ended its use of Tris last year, said the commission's order to repurchase goods could cost $2 million.
The commission had opposed the mill's request and government lawyers were expected to decide whether to appeal any temporary stoppage of the Tris ban. In addition, the Environmental Defense Fund which first asked the commission for action on Tris early last year, was seeking Chapman's permission to join the legal fray.
The Environmental Defense Fund had first asked the product safely commission to require labels on Tris-treated sleepwear when there were indications that Tris was suspected o causing cancer. On Feb. 4 of this year, commission officials received preliminary data on Tris from the National Cancer Institute and the fund asked for a ban on Tris-treated sleepwear on Feb. 8. On April 7, the commission voted to ban it and odered the repurchase.