Frustrated by a lack of action taken by the European Commission despite over a year of debate at EU level, Austria and Denmark already have functioning bans on the use of six phthalates in children's toys. Greece, Finland, Sweden and non-EU member Norway are progressing towards national restrictions. And news has recently emerged that the German health ministry is proposing prohibition in Germany (ENDS Daily 16 April).
These actions by individual member states are "potentially far more dangerous" than EU measures, Tim Edgar of ECPI said today. "This piecemeal effect is becoming very worrying," he said. Interviewed by ENDS Daily, Mr Edgar and colleague David Cadogan of ECPI said that the association stood firmly by its "conviction" that phthalates were safe to use, both in toys and in other applications. Recent research results were confirming this picture, they said.
According to the association, any regulations imposed on phthalate use now should at least be based on the findings of the EU's principle scientific committee in the field, the committee on toxicology, ecotoxicology and the environment (CSTEE). Last year, the committee derived safe limits for migration of phthalates out of childcare items into babies' saliva. Neither the countries taking unilateral actions, nor two competing proposals for action currently on the table within the European Commission, respect this methodology, ECPI complains.
The association claims that recent scientific developments are in any case showing phthalates to be safer than assumed by the CSTEE. Studies now show much increased margins of safety for both DEHP and DINP, the two substances most in the spotlight, according to ECPI. "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that phthalates cause cancer or reproductive problems in humans," the association now baldly claims. "Neither are they harmful to the environment."
While the most immediate political pressure facing plasticiser makers is Europe's highly politicised debate over phthalates in baby toys, ECPI stresses that it is fighting to defend a larger argument. "If we lose the battle on toys then that would be disappointing; but if we win on the science then that would be important for other applications," Mr Cadogan told ENDS Daily. "If we gave up, even by saying that [we would phase out phthalates in toys] in response to public opinion then that would have huge implications not just for other applications of phthalates but also for the whole use of chemicals."
ECPI, tel: +32 2 779 5955.
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