EU report brings PVC baby toys ban closer

Commission directorate seeks backing for early action after scientists confirm potential risks

The European Commission's consumer protection directorate is pushing for a wide EU ban on soft PVC baby toys following further scientific advice that children could ingest potentially harmful levels of certain phthalate softeners, ENDS Daily has learned.

A still unpublished report by the EU Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment confirms the overall findings of an interim statement made in February (ENDS Daily 13 February), officials said.

In one significant alteration, the committee now says there is cause for concern over potential migration into babies' saliva of just two phthalates rather than three as it previously suggested. Officials would not reveal the names of the phthalates concerned before publication of the report, which is expected in the next few days.

EU consumer protection commissioner Emma Bonino is now pressing for the Commission to propose before June an EU-wide ban on certain soft PVC baby toys. A spokesperson for Ms Bonino said the Commission was obliged to respond to a Spanish request for EU action made last month (ENDS Daily 25 March). The Commission had to take precautionary measures even though scientific uncertainties remained, he said.

Other Commission departments would accept a ban, the spokesperson indicated. Discussions were focusing on how widely any marketing restrictions should be drawn, he told ENDS Daily.

Ms Bonino is understood to favour a wide ban on sales of soft PVC toys for children under three whether or not they are intended to be sucked or chewed. Other directorates are said to favour more limited restrictions focusing on products such as teething rings that are expressly made to be chewed.

European toy manufacturers say an EU ban on soft PVC baby toys would be a "disaster". Maurits Bruggink, secretary-general of Toy Industries of Europe told ENDS Daily that any ban - however restricted - would threaten all soft PVC toys by suggesting to consumers that soft PVC was unsafe. Nearly 40% of toys contain soft PVC, he added.

Mr Bruggink said he was "happy" with the scientific committee's work which acknowledged scientific uncertainties, particularly over the simulation of phthalate migration from toys when sucked. He accused Ms Bonino's directorate of using the committee's findings for its own political ends. "We hope and believe there will be insufficient support in the Commission for this ban proposal," he said.

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

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