A similar move last year by Mr Byrne's predecessor Emma Bonino was scuppered by opposition from then industry commissioner Martin Bangemann (ENDS Daily 1 July 1998). A spokesperson for Mr Byrne told ENDS Daily today, however, that an "emergency temporary measure" was to be proposed jointly by Mr Byrne and Mr Bangemann's successor, enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen. The fact that the measure is being co-sponsored by the directorate responsible for industry greatly strengthens the chances of it being accepted by other commissioners.
The Commission will propose banning toys containing any one of six phthalate softeners citing a "serious and immediate risk related to the general toxicity to the health of young children," according to a text of the measure seen by Greenpeace. It will simultaneously propose a permanent ban with the same scope and an additional requirement that toys not intended to be sucked by children carry the warning "ensure that this toy is kept out of the mouth." The six phthalates listed in the text are DINP, DIHP, DNOP, DIDP, DBP and BBP.
The emergency measure follows months of uncertainty during which eight countries have acted unilaterally by imposing or notifying their intention to impose bans on childcare articles containing PVC softened by phthalates.
Axel Singhofen of Greenpeace said it was "great" to see the Commission moving to ban phthalate-containing teethers, but said the proposal was "insufficient". Seven of the eight countries that had put restrictions on phthalates in toys had imposed tighter measures than those to be endorsed by the Commission, he said. Greenpeace was still insisting on a phase-out of all PVC and wanted the emergency ban to go further by including a market withdrawal of all phthalate-softened PVC toys, he added.
Greenpeace, tel: +32 2 280 1400.
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