Phthalate leaching tests back on EU agenda

Scientists again open door to EU setting phthalate migration limits instead of all-out ban

The EU's seemingly inexorable move towards a permanent ban on use of phthalate softeners in many PVC toys has once more been put into doubt by EU scientists. In an opinion released today, the scientific committee on toxicity, ecotoxicity and the environment (Cstee) broadly supports a plan presented to it to develop a validated method for testing phthalate migration into saliva when toys are sucked. This could eventually support regulations based on migration limits rather than an outright ban on phthalates.

The Cstee's opinion is based on a proposal made to it by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Italy. JRC is working with a number of other laboratories, including the two centres in the Netherlands and the UK whose first proposals for phthalate test methods were rejected by the Cstee last September (ENDS Daily 29 September 1999).

Reviewing the JRC's proposal - which is still based on the three test methods presented and rejected last year - the committee says that "the validation protocol is, to a great extent, in accordance with the guidelines recommended by Cstee". It calls for a number of further improvements, but concludes that "these recommendations should not postpone the proposed validation programme of in-vitro methods for migration testing".

According to a scientist working in the field, the work now backed by the Cstee should be completed by the end of the year. In this case, a validated test method could be on the table at the same time a draft EU directive to permanently ban six types of phthalates in items that can be sucked by under-threes is still under debate.

In its first reading opinion on the European Commission proposal for a phthalates ban, the European Parliament this summer called for even more stringent and wider controls (ENDS Daily 7 July). However, it also left the door open for a rethink should a reliable migration test method become available. The Council of Ministers is still at an early stage of its discussions on the proposal and is unlikely to reach a first reading agreement until at least November, according to one Brussels source.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and the Cstee's opinion on phthalate migration test method validation.

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