Most of the toys tested by Greenpeace contained 10-40% phthalates by weight. In two-thirds, DINP (diisononyl phthalate) was the predominant phthalate, rather than the historically more commonly found DEHP. Greenpeace claims that DINP shows similar toxicological properties in laboratory animals, including liver and kidney disorders, damage to the reproductive tract and increased incidence of certain forms of cancer.
Tests conducted by the Danish and Dutch Governments have shown that phthalates can migrate from soft PVC toys when pressure is applied, such as a small child chewing or sucking a toy (ENDS Daily 28 May). "In this way, the toy industry is unnecessarily exposing small children to hazardous chemicals at one of the most vulnerable periods of their development," Greenpeace scientist David Santillo said today.
Most European toy manufacturers and distributors remain convinced that phthalates do not pose a significant risk. Maurits Bruggink of Toy Industries of Europe (TIE), told ENDS Daily that ongoing reviews of the Danish and Dutch migration studies were revealing methodological weaknesses that called their results into question.
However, a growing number of retailers throughout Europe have withdrawn teething rings and soft PVC toys such as soft books and bath toys. The Danish supermarket chains Foetex and FDB and the superstore May Bilka have removed soft PVC toys for small children, as has the Swedish superstore KF. In July, Danish retailers Blokker, Speelhorn (Toys R Us) and Vendex began phasing out stocks of soft PVC toys.
Also in July, Dutch health minister Erica Terpstra wrote to retailers, urging them to remove soft PVC toys from their shelves: "Although the found phthalate concentration and migration values do not result in an immediate danger to the health of babies, negative effects cannot be excluded," she said. In August, the largest Dutch retailer, de Bijenkorf, withdrew PVC toys. The Belgian Health Ministry has also called on retailers to voluntarily withdraw PVC toys and for producers to stop marketing them.
The toy industry sees the retailers' actions as a response to customer concerns rather than a reflection of real risks from phthalates. "It is just the result of fierce lobbying by Greenpeace," said Mr Bruggink. "I'm still giving my children PVC toys."
Greenpeace, tel: +31 20 523 6222; Toy Industries of Europe, tel: +32 2 732 7040.
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