Third EU scientist questions phthalates ban

Danish member of EU committee defends DINP; Norway finds phthalates ban flouted

A third member of the EU scientific committee responsible for advising on risks of using phthalates to soften baby toys has come out in defence of at least one of the chemicals. Two other members, including the committee's chairman, sparked a huge row last year when they claimed that their assessment of health risks did not support an emergency ban (ENDS Daily 22 November 1999). Both were heavily criticised by the European Commission, which won EU governments' support for prohibition shortly afterwards (ENDS Daily 1 December 1999).

Ole Ladefoged of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration told Aktuelt newspaper on Tuesday that the scientific evidence had moved in favour of DINP, the main phthalate used to soften PVC toys. "New research absolves DINP of having a damaging effect on reproduction," he said. "In other studies one can see that the substance has some effect on the liver, but its significance is a little unclear and there is no apparent cause for such grave concern."

"Given that background, there is no basis for banning the substance if we can manage to develop an analytical method to ensure that toys do not release it in quantities exceeding permissible limits," he continued. Dr Ladefoged confirmed his comments to ENDS Daily today, but added that reproductive toxicity concerns over three other phthalates - DEHP, BBP and DBP - meant they should be banned.

Danish government officials hit back at Dr Ladefoged's comments, stressing, as the European Commission did last year, that whether to ban phthalates was a question of risk management rather than risk assessment. Neither technology nor financial resources were up to "investigating every toy," Lisbet Seedorff of the Danish environmental protection agency told Aktuelt. "We have to give children the benefit of the doubt."

* In a related development, recent spot-checks in Norwegian shops found that 15 of 22 plastic children's toys and baby products tested contained phthalates in contravention of a national ban, the national pollution control authority (SFT) said on Tuesday. Similar revelations emerged last year in Austria (ENDS Daily 9 April 1999).

"We are now in touch with the shops where these products are bought in order to demand that the relevant toys be removed," the SFT's Joakim Lystad said in a statement. "We are also asking importers to fulfil their obligation to know the goods they are importing."

Follow Up:
Aktuelt, tel: +45 33 18 40 00; Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, tel: +45 33 95 60 00; Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00; SFT, tel: +47 22 57 34 00.

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