New phthalate migration tests launched

Common EU testing approach for of all organic chemicals "now possible," says UK lab

Two new test methods for predicting how fast phthalate softeners are likely to leach from PVC toys to young children's saliva provide an "important advance" in assessing the risks of phthalates in toys, according to the independent UK laboratory that has developed them.

The Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) says the two tests "represent a solid basis for reaching a common European approach" for testing phthalate migration. Furthermore, the same tests could also be used to measure migration of any other organic chemical. The tests are a "significant step forward" according to Julian Braybrook of the laboratory, because they are backed by a detailed scientific protocol that can be followed by other laboratories. Details of the methods have been sent to official laboratories around the EU, he told ENDS Daily.

Publication of the UK test methods follows completion of a Dutch method in September (ENDS Daily 22 September). This filled key gaps in knowledge about phthalate migration; specifically how long children actually suck or chew on articles such as teething rings that can contain phthalates, and how fast phthalates leach from items to actual people rather than in laboratory tests.

The LGC claims that its methods are an advance on the Dutch one, partly because they can be copied, but also because migration tests it has performed using the methods have been more comprehensive. Whereas only one phthalate-softened PVC product and one phthalate compound were tested in the earlier study, the LGC has tested two phthalates and five products, according to Dr Braybrook. The laboratory now plans to test a further 12 products.

The broader range of tests performed also advances understanding of the actual likely risks of phthalate migration, according to the LGC. The laboratory says that the tests it has carried out suggest similar phthalate migration levels to those found in the Dutch study, but more firmly.

If further tests confirm the picture then the test could have significant policy implications. The European Commission is drafting a directive on phthalate migration risks that would ban articles with migration levels above limits suggested by an EU scientific committee this spring.

Based on tests carried out so far, Dr Braybrook said, "we are not seeing products that fail the limits set by the Commission". If further research gives similar results, and if the Commission's guidelines for safe migration levels remain unchanged, then a future EU directive on phthalate migration would have little or no effect on the market. Furthermore, EU member states planning unilateral action against PVC baby toys would likely face EU pressure to rescind the measures.

Follow Up:
Laboratory of the Government Chemist, tel: +44 181 943 7000.

Please sign in to access this article. To subscribe, view our subscription options, or take out a free trial.

Please enter your details

Forgotten password?

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
or call 020 8267 8120

Not a subscriber?

Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.