Safety of phthalates back on the EU agenda

Policy makers await scientists' opinion on recent developments in scientific knowledge

An EU scientific committee is to decide on Friday whether to revise its opinion on the degree of risk posed to babies from mouthing teething rings and other PVC items containing phthalate softeners. The committee on toxicity, ecotoxicity and the environment (CSTEE) delivered its first opinion on the issue in April (ENDS Daily 29 April), since when new scientific evidence has emerged on the main phthalate used in teething rings, DINP, including on its toxicity, on exposure patterns and on rates of migration into babies' saliva. The main study being looked at by the committee was published by a Dutch "consensus group" in September (ENDS Daily 22 September). It is also considering scientific studies carried out in Austria, Spain and the UK. The job of the committee has been complicated at the last minute by the publication in the USA of a new study of DINP's oncogenicity in mice and rats, and by a Canadian decision announced last week to advise the public not to use phthalate-softened PVC items designed to be mouthed, which itself follows similar moves by several EU countries. A working group of the committee heard evidence on the two developments yesterday from the chemical industry and from Greenpeace. Its conclusions are expected to be pivotal in guiding the European Commission, which is likely to propose EU legislation aimed at reducing risks to children from phthalates in toys.

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