[GRRN] Phthalates in Toys

RecycleWorlds (anderson@msn.fullfeed.com)
Wed, 24 Nov 1999 11:45:38 -0600

Here is this week's editorial from Plastics News in response to the EU's
emergency ban on phthalates (a softener used in PVC) in toys that has been
pushed by Greenpeace to the derision of the plastics industry, yes -- to
quote that ol' New Yorker advertisement -- in Plastics News. The trade
publication seems to be endorsing the Precautionary Principle.

Officials have reasons to mull
phthalates ban

The picture surrounding phthalates and PVC toys is far from
clear, even in the wake of the European Commissionīs move
Nov. 10 to place an emergency ban on the chemicals in PVC
Thatīs because thereīs no smoking gun that we can all agree
makes it obvious that children are in immediate danger.
The EC asserted that "phthalates are released in dangerous
quantities when soft PVC" toys are chewed by babies over
extended periods of time. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission, on the other hand, said it has not seen any
evidence of harm at the levels children are exposed to -- a
view supported by others such as C. Everett Koopīs panel.
The hue and cry comes because many of the phthalates, used
as softeners for PVC, are not what youīd call friendly
chemicals. When diisononyl phthalate, for example, is fed to
laboratory mice and rats in high doses, it damages the liver,
kidneys and other organs, according to the U.S. government.
DINP in some toys is as much as 40 percent of the product.
Itīs important to keep in mind there are real questions about
whether those studies are relevant to people, because
animals process the chemicals differently.
But the EC took its action because it has been unable to find
a way to measure reliably how much or how little of the
phthalates can be sucked out of toys.
To date, laboratory test results have not been reproduced to
an extent that EC scientists will base regulatory regimes on
them. Otherwise, the debate probably would be moot. With
reliable results, migration limits could be established and
violations could be monitored.
Industry continues to argue that tests can be developed, but
the EC got tired of waiting.
The logic for getting rid of phthalates goes like this: If you
can find alternative plastics or materials, why use a
questionable material? Thatīs particularly true when children
are involved.
Reasonable people can disagree. Is there enough risk to
justify a ban? Will the alternatives have greater problems?
But itīs also reasonable for governments to press for
alternatives, given all the uncertainty.
[ Opinion ]
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