EU phthalates ban "should be extended"

European Parliament rapporteur calls for law to cover all toys designed for under-threes

The EU should extend a planned permanent ban on phthalate softeners in PVC toys to cover any toy made for under threes that could conceivably be sucked, the European Parliament's rapporteur on the legislative proposal said today. The European Commission has proposed prohibition only for toys specifically designed to be put in the mouth by under threes, arguing that risk assessments do not justify a wider ban. It has proposed requiring warning labels on other small children's toys softened with phthalates.

Broadening prohibition would greatly increase the range of toys affected. Only a very small proportion - notably teethers - were banned under an emergency procedure last December and are targeted by the Commission in the draft directive now being discussed in the parliament. Greenpeace estimates that 10% of PVC toys made for under threes contain phthalates.

Mr Arvidsson told ENDS Daily his proposals had strong political support behind the scenes. He was confident that the parliament would decide to go "much further" than the Commission. Its proposal takes a middle line between a majority of member states that have already introduced national bans and a few that think even a limited ban is unnecessary.

During the committee meeting, the MEP argued that his proposals were effectively not much stricter than the Commission's, but would make the law work better. Introducing warning labels on phthalate-softened toys would deter people from buying them, so the EU would do better to clearly ban them instead, he said.

Meanwhile, several MEPs today criticised the Commission for not having produced the minutes of a meeting of the Commission scientific committee dealing with phthalates held shortly after a complaint by its chairman that the Commission had "grossly misused" its work (ENDS Daily 22 November 1999).

Committee chair Caroline Jackson said the affair had a "slightly sinister" air, while UK conservative Roger Helmer suggested the Commission could be interfering with the scientists' work. The chair of the scientific committee, Jim Bridges, is to be invited to the committee's next debate on phthalates.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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