EU commissioner hits back at PVC critics

Bonino rejects industry complaint over initiative to prepare EU ban on some soft PVC toys

EU consumer protection commissioner Emma Bonino has hit back at criticism from PVC manufacturers and the toy industry over her attempts to ban PVC in certain toys for young children. Details of the row have emerged in an exchange of letters during April, copies of which have been passed to ENDS Daily.

Three organisations - the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers, the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates and Toy Industries of Europe - jointly wrote to Ms Bonino in early April. They expressed concern that Ms Bonino's spokesperson, Filippo di Robilant, had told journalists that a ban on certain toys was on the cards after EU scientists delivered an interim opinion saying that they doubted the safety of some phthalate plasticisers used in soft PVC toys. The committee confirmed this view last month (ENDS Daily 29 April).

Industry sources have told ENDS Daily that they believe Ms Bonino's directorate is politically motivated in pushing for a ban and is manipulating scientists' advice to this end. But Mr di Robilant pointed out today that the industries themselves had publicised Ms Bonino's plans for a ban in a press release. In a clear demonstration of the acrimony that exists between the directorate and industry, Mr di Robilant said: "They are making a big fuss, probably because they have a bad conscience." He described the associations' letter as "insulting".

In their letter, the organisations took issue with Mr di Robilant commenting on the scientists' work even though it had not been completed. They also accused him of "misleading" the public by saying that three EU countries had already introduced legislation to ban some toys containing phthalates.

Their letter concludes: "Press comment of this kind raises some fundamental questions of principle, can mislead the public and devalues the process of consumer protection. We would urge greater caution and consideration be applied in future before such statements are made to the wider public."

In her response, Ms Bonino told the associations that the fact that work was continuing "should not prevent my spokesman answer[ing] questions from the media and therefore the concerned public, about the opinions of our scientific committees". The Commission is "fully committed," she said "to ensure complete transparency and information on the scientific advice".

Ms Bonino also insisted that the organisations were "perfectly aware" that Spain, Austria and Denmark had notified the Commission that they intended to ban certain toys containing phthalates and had asked it to take measures at EU level. "Therefore, I found my spokesman's statement perfectly correct," she concluded.

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

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