Main PVC toy softener to get EU all clear

Draft risk assessment for DINP phthalate says no extra restrictions necessary

An EU assessment of the risks two types of phthalate softeners pose to human health and the environment will conclude that no risk reduction legislation beyond that already in place need be taken against the main plasticiser used in soft PVC toys, ENDS Daily has learned. The results of the assessment on diisononyl phthalate (DINP), along with a second one on diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), are expected to be published formally soon, after review by member states and the European Commission.

The reports will reignite the debate over phthalates, six of which - including both DINP and DIDP - are temporarily banned in the EU for use in PVC toys intended to be placed in the mouths of under-threes (ENDS Daily 11 December 2000). Risk assessments on other phthalates are also due this year under the EU's "existing substances" programme of chemical evaluation.

What effect the conclusions will have on moves to make the toy ban permanent is not yet clear. Under the clear demarcation at EU level between risk assessment and risk management, the Commission has the sole right to propose restrictions on the chemicals, and its decisions take into account factors such as public concern. But the assessment findings do tend to suggest that at least DINP and DIDP need not be on the list of phthalates under fire.

Phthalate manufacturers have long been concerned less about the market for their products in toys and more about the precedent of any ban on phthalates. The findings will be a shot in the arm to them, though industry body the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates said today it could not comment on the assessments until they had been formally approved.

However, scientific work on the dossier, conducted by France, is complete and the conclusions are unlikely to change. "The risk assessment is a very favourable outcome for us," one plasticiser industry source who has seen the draft report told ENDS Daily today.

The results also tally with statements made late last year in defence of DINP by Danish scientist Ole Ladefoged, who until recently sat on the EU's scientific committee on toxicology, ecotoxicology and environment, which advises on phthalates (ENDS Daily 2 November 2000). Earlier last year, an expert panel in the USA concluded that "risks to human reproduction are unlikely" from DINP (ENDS Daily 29 February 2000).

Follow Up:
European Chemicals Bureau, tel +39 332 789 249, and the EU's existing substances review programme; ECPI, tel: +32 2 676 7211.

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