Permanent phthalates ban in toys approved

The Parliament’s approval of the ban of phthalates in toys has had mixed reactions. Consumer organisations and NGOs are relieved while the toy industry points to a “misuse of the precautionary principle”.

Based on the precautionary principle, the Parliament has voted by an overwhelming majority (487 in favour, 9 against and 10 abstentions) to ban the use of three and restrict the use of another three chemicals in plastic toys and childcare articles, without age-limitations.

“Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys,” commented Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Under the new directive:

  • three phthalates – DEHP, DBP and BBP – will be banned in all toys and childcare articles; 
  • three others – DINP, DIDP and DNOP – will be banned from use in toys and childcare articles for those articles that can be put children’s mouths.

The Commission will prepare guidelines to facilitate the implementation of these new provisions on the restrictions in toys and childcare articles insofar as they concern the condition “which can be placed in the mouth by children”. 

MEP Antonios Trakatellis, EPP-ED rapporteur of the draft recommendation for a second reading, was satisfied with the positive outcome: "It's not possible that a dangerous substance for which there are indications that is carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic is prohibited only in toys for children under three."  

Toy Industries of Europe (TIE): "The role of EU agencies in the performance of risk assessments is crucial to toy safety. The toy industry spends a lot of time and effort identifying materials that are safe. To do this, it needs to rely on trusted EU agencies such as the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB), and later the REACH Agency. There is now an uncertainty in the toy industry as to how to move forward: what criteria can we use to determine that substitute chemicals will not be challenged on health and environmental grounds in the future?" commented, TIE’s Senior Adviser Teemu Lehtinen.

"We strongly believe that EU legislation must be based on sound science, and fear that this directive will undermine legal certainty and potentially the future regulatory framework for chemicals in Europe," said Thomas Eichhorn, chairman of TIE.

Holger Krahmer, MEP of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe: "This decision is a huge exaggeration of the precautionary principle." 

Greenpeace European Unit: "This ban means that plastic toys sold in Europe will be safer. However, if parents want to be sure to protect their children, we advise them not to buy anything made from PVC or vinyl because laws are still not tight enough to prevent this plastic damaging our health and environment," said Nadia Haiama-Neurohr. "We should be able to trust industry  not to make dangerous chemicals and manufacturers not to use them. But this toxic toy story shows us that they won't clean up their acts unless we force them to," she added. 

The European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI) is very disappointed and concerned by this ban the stringent measures of which are unnecessary and ignore scientific risk assessments. "Banning a substance which has been scientifically risk assessed as safe, thereby forcing manufacturers to use alternatives about which far less is known, does nothing to protect the health of children," said Dr David Cadogan, Director of ECPI. 

"European plasticiser producers fully support any efforts to protect the safety of children and would never knowingly compromise their health. However, based on a lot of exaggerated and often incorrect claims about alleged adverse health effects from phthalates, politicians have been misled into believing that children's health is being endangered. Their decision to ban DINP in all toys which can be put in the mouth is an entirely political decision that misuses the precautionary principle," he added. 

MEP Jill Evans of The Greens/EFA: "It has taken eight years, three European Commissions and 11 Council presidencies to protect children from highly toxic substances in their toys, but it is good to see that common sense has finally prevailed over the fierce and deceptive lobbying from industry." 

MEP, Hiltrud Breyer of The Greens/EFA: "[...] this does not stop with toys. Parliament and Council rightly asked for an assessment of other soft PVC products. If industry wants to be as responsible as it claims to be, it should stop using soft PVC altogether, not only in toys but also in other products such as medical devices, flooring and food wrapping. Safe alternatives are available so there is no reason to continue to use soft PVC." 

The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) warmly welcomed "the European Union's decision which ensures the protection of the most vulnerable consumers."  

Phthalates are widely used chemicals (clothes, PVC building materials, medical products, cosmetics, toys, child care articles, food packaging). In toys, they are used to soften the PVC plastics certain toys are made of. 

Phthalates are believed to be harmful to human health, causing damage to the reproductive system and increasing the risks of allergies, asthma and cancer. 

Phthalates have been temporarily banned since 1990, the ban being regularly renewed. The situation has led to the emergence of different national policies, thereby potentially undermining the functioning of the internal market.

  • The Council having already agreed on a common position, the directive should receive formal approval in the autumn 2005.
  • As part of the next revision of the directive on toys, the Commission intends to examine the issue of fragrances in toys. 

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