Phthalate study leaves pro-ban states unmoved

Sweden, Denmark, say "nothing new" to change their minds about banning phthalates

Two EU member states that proposed bans on the use of phthalates in soft PVC baby toys say that a new Dutch risk assessment published last week is unlikely to change their views on the issue. Danish and Swedish officials told ENDS Daily today that any level of phthalate migration to babies' saliva would be "unacceptable".

It became clear as soon as the study was published that it was not going to settle arguments between industry and environmental groups over the use of phthalates to soften PVC toys for small children. It now appears that it will also fail to solve the challenge facing the European Commission of trying to find an approach that satisfies all EU member states.

Sweden notified the Commission only this month of plans to ban the use of all phthalates in toys and childcare articles for children under three years (ENDS Daily 11 September). An environment ministry official told ENDS Daily today that she had not yet seen the Dutch results but that, in any case, they were not likely to shift Sweden's position about phthalates.

She said that trying to establish safe levels of phthalate leaching from toys was "not the right way to go". The Swedish government feels that as long as there is a reasonable risk of phthalates causing harm then no phthalate migration should be accepted as safe. "It is more important that we should not pose the risk at all - we are applying the precautionary principle."

Denmark says it intends to discuss the Dutch study with other EU states. It notified the Commission in August of plans to ban phthalates in children's toys (ENDS Daily 6 August). A senior Environmental Protection Agency official told ENDS Daily that she was "sceptical" about the Dutch study and that it "tells us nothing new". It showed - like all other studies that have been done - that there is some level of phthalate migration and that, she said, was "not acceptable".

Denmark is also concerned about some assumptions used the Dutch study, which, it says, are less cautious than those adopted by an EU scientific committee in making a preliminary assessment of phthalate risks earlier this year.

The EU committee assumed that phthalate exposure from PVC toys represented 20-30% of children's likely total exposure from all sources including food. The Dutch study assumes that PVC toys are "the most important source" of phthalates for children. Another crucial difference is that the EU committee assumed that children suck toys for longer each day than the Dutch researchers.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 8 405 1000; Danish Environmental Protection Agency, tel: +45 32 66 01 00.

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