EU "rethinking" permanent phthalates ban

Industry claims support from Prodi for renewed focus on migration-based limits

European plasticiser manufacturers have claimed a boost in their fight against a permanent EU-wide ban on the use of phthalate softeners in baby toys. According to the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI), senior European Commission figures are showing renewed interest in setting limits on phthalate leaching from toys rather than banning them. The association says its members have therefore dropped plans to take legal action against the Commission in order to "pursue joint work" on the development of an official European migration test method.

Last December, the Commission won unanimous EU member state backing for an emergency three-month ban on the use of phthalates in toys designed to be sucked by children under three (ENDS Daily 1 December 1999). The Commission also indicated that it would move to make the ban permanent through an amendment to the EU's 1976 directive on marketing and use of dangerous substances and preparations. The twin developments appeared to mark the death knell for phthalates in baby toys.

Now, however, ECPI says it has received a letter from the office of Commission president Romano Prodi suggesting that development of an agreed test method for phthalate migration is the way forward. The association also claims to have received political support for this approach from the Commission's enterprise directorate. It has yet to meet with the consumer safety directorate, which is less likely to favour dropping the plan to permanently ban phthalates.

Tim Edgar of ECPI told ENDS Daily that the messages had given the association a "new impetus" to work on getting an official test method agreed. "There's a willingness perhaps not there before," he said. "We would like to see this become a full Commission initiative rather than being driven by industry," he added.

Follow Up:
ECPI, tel: +32 2 779 5955, and the association's press statement.

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