Denmark accused of phthalates "witch hunt"

Industry associations react angrily to Danish precautionary plan to phase out phthalates

European Union trade associations representing the phthalates and PVC industries have slammed Denmark over a strategy to phase out phthalates. Following the strategy's adoption earlier this month by Danish environment minister Svend Auken, two associations today attacked it as "irresponsible scare-mongering" and as a "witch hunt".

Phthalates, some of which are suspected of disrupting human hormone systems, are widely used as plasticisers to soften PVC products. Prepared by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Denmark's strategy follows an EPA report in April that phthalates in teething rings could leach into babies' saliva in significant quantities. The revelation led to a wave of concern over soft PVC toys among retailers and some governments (ENDS Daily 28 May).

The EPA strategy aims to achieve an eventual phase out of phthalates, but does not impose a ban. Instead, it calls for the introduction of tax, labelling and public purchasing policies designed to encourage industry and consumers to voluntarily stop using them. Phthalates are found in many PVC products, including toys, anti-corrosion treatments in cars, rain wear, blood bags and electrical cables.

The strategy has scandalised the EU phthalates and PVC industries. Responding today, the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI), branded the report as "irresponsible scare-mongering, completely counter to objective scientific facts."

David Cadogan, Director of ECPI said: "It contributes nothing to the protection of human health or the environment. Instead it merely undermines confidence in products which play a major positive role in modern society." Following swiftly behind, the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers (ECVM) offered "strong support" to ECPI's "condemnation" of the report, which it said "simply ignore[s] careful scientific study."

Science is the central issue at stake in the row. The Danish government would like to ban phthalates, but has introduced a non-legislative strategy on the basis of the precautionary approach while it gathers evidence of its implications for health.

The PVC and phthalates industries, on the other hand, are adamant that the precautionary principle is "inappropriate" in this case. "Phthalates have been proven by a series of scientific studies to be safe in production, use and disposal," ECPI maintains.

David Cadogan said: "the report is a clear abuse of the concept of precaution since there are no reasonable grounds on which to view these products as dangerous in any way." Echoing his sentiments, John Svalander of the ECVM said: "This report strikes at the whole root of the precautionary principle - which was never intended as the basis of a witch hunt."

Follow Up:
European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates, tel: +32 2 676 7211; European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers, tel: +32 2 675 2971

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