Largest toy maker breaks ranks on phthalates

US firm Mattel to begin worldwide shipments of phthalate-free teething rings next year

Mattel, the world's largest toy maker, is to stop using phthalate softeners in plastic teething rings for babies, the company has announced. The move comes at an unfortunate time for the European toy industry, which is claiming that a new study on phthalate migration has finally proved the safety of phthalate use in toys (see separate story in this issue). In a press statement released this week, Mattel said it would begin worldwide shipments of phthalate-free teethers next year. The company does not make clear whether its initiative reflects a judgement on the safety of phthalates or is political. The phase-out "reflects our ongoing commitment to providing consumers with the highest quality standards and the most innovative products," it says, while stressing that most scientific evidence "supports the safety of phthalates in teething products". Mattel will make information on phthalate substitutes available to the global toy industry, the company said. The trade association Toy Industries of Europe reacted with scepticism to Mattel's announcement today. "We are extremely puzzled," Maurits Bruggink told ENDS Daily. "What are the alternatives [to phthalates]? Do we have as much scientific data as we do for phthalates?" he said.

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