Denmark bans phthalates in children's toys

PVC industry says ban covering all phthalates is based on "thin arguments"

Denmark has become the second EU country in as many months to decide to ban the use of phthalate plasticisers in toys and child-care articles for children under three years. The ban, due to take effect from November, will effectively rule out the use of soft PVC in such items, prompting complaints from Denmark's PVC industry that it is based on "emotion and politics" rather than science.

The Danish government's decision was notified to the EU on Tuesday. It follows a recommendation from the European Commission last month that member states should decide for themselves whether regulatory measures against phthalates are necessary after assessing their health risks (ENDS Daily 1 July). The recommendation was issued after Commissioners decided there was insufficient scientific justification for an EU-wide ban.

But Denmark's ban goes further than the Commission's recommendation in two ways. It applies to all toys and child-care articles for children - whether or not they are intended to be placed in the mouth. The Commission envisaged possible action only against toys intended to be sucked, such as teething rings.

It also bans the use of all phthalates, not just the two widely used chemicals - DEHP and DINP - that the Commission highlighted as giving cause for concern because of their relatively high rates of migration from toys when sucked. Lisbet Seedorff, head of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency's chemicals division, told ENDS Daily: "We are covering all phthalates because maybe tomorrow a new one will be used and we will have to start [this process] all over again."

In addition, the EPA says it is "still sensitive to the risks associated with toys for children over the age of three". It will continue to investigate whether there is a need for additional action.

The Danish toy industry says it has already voluntarily replaced most soft PVC toys for children under three in expectation of the EPA's decision. The PVC Information Council - the industry's trade association in Denmark - also says the decision "comes as no surprise".

The council's General Manager, Ole Grøndahl Hansen, said the EPA had essentially rejected the argument that restrictions on phthalates should be based on an assessment of their migration rate from toys when sucked. He also questioned whether there had been an adequate risk assessment of the materials likely to replace soft PVC.

He told ENDS Daily: "If you can use the precautionary principle with such thin arguments as you have in this case, then it can be very serious for society in the future - if we can ban everything, every chemical with such thin arguments."

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00.

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