EU science committee discredits phthalates safety tests

Current methods for measuring the release of phthalates from soft toys are unreliable, and substitute materials are not proven safe, according to two opinions published by the EU Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) this week.

In previous opinions, the CSTEE had found reasons for concern for children’s health because of the release of phthalates, a chemical substance used as a plasticiser in such PVC toys. The Committee now examined reports on two test methods developed in the Netherlands and the UK to measure the release of phthalates from soft PVC toys. It states that currently they cannot be considered suitable to distinguish safe toys from unsafe toys.

The scientists also evaluated some substitutes for phthalates in soft PVC. They concluded that the available information is currently too limited to determine whether they are safe for use in toys and teething rings which children put into their mouth.

The Committee also recommended that any alternative to soft PVC itself should be the object of a risk assessment similar to the ones used for plasticisers.

To date, eight EU States have adopted or are about to adopt measures prohibiting the use of phthalates in toys which small children put in their mouth. The Commission says it will review the situation and consider the nature of any necessary measures at European level shortly.

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