Spain calls for EU ban on PVC toys

Commission decision expected after final scientific committee opinion next month

The Spanish government has triggered an EU regulatory process that could result in some PVC toys containing phthalate plasticisers being banned within months. Its move comes after an EU scientific committee reported last month that some phthalates used in soft PVC baby toys could be released at above safe levels when sucked (ENDS Daily 13 February).

Spain has made a formal request to the European Commission under the 1992 EU general product safety directive, which gives powers to the Commission to propose immediate bans of products thought to pose an urgent health threat. It would be the first time this emergency measure has been used.

The Commission today confirmed receiving the request but refused to reveal further details such as the products Spain wants banned. It must now decide whether Spain's request meets certain conditions specified in the directive. First and foremost, it must judge whether the products concerned pose a "serious and immediate health risk" to consumers.

A Commission official told ENDS Daily: "Based on the [committee's] interim opinion [last month], which states there are reasons for concern [over some phthalates]...one could take the view that probably there would be a need for action".

But he added that the Commission would not take a decision before the EU Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment has given its final opinion on the issue, which it is due to do next month. It would be important for the committee to reach a clear conclusion on whether phthalates pose an urgent risk, he said.

The Commission also needs to take into account whether any member state has already banned the products, whether countries are adopting different measures to tackle the risks posed and if the risk is best dealt with at EU level. If it feels these conditions are satisfied, then it can propose a ban, which will have to be approved by a qualified majority of member states. Products can only be banned for three months at a time, after which the reasons for the ban must be re-evaluated.

Meanwhile, the Commission is still considering the need for horizontal legislation to tackle risks posed by phthalates.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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