Firms grow impatient over EU phthalates ban

Manufacturers of phthalate plastic softeners today expressed increasing irritation and concern over an EU ban on the substances after it was renewed for the 15th time since being introduced in 1999. There is now "absolutely no need" for the ban, insisted Tim Edgar of the European council for plasticisers and intermediates (Ecpi).

Each prohibition order lasts for three months and prevents use of six phthalates in toys designed to be sucked by children under three. It was meant to be a temporary solution to a dispute between EU member states: one group wanted a permanent ban, another supported continued use within a framework of limits on phthalate migration into children's saliva.

Nearly four years on, the temporary order is still in place despite scientific developments which Ecpi claims have eliminated the reason for its existence.

In mid-2001, EU scientists validated test methods for measuring migration of phthalates into saliva. This has provided the necessary foundation should the EU decide to replace prohibition with limits on migration to saliva, says the lobby group.

Meanwhile, a draft official EU risk assessment of diisononylphthalate (DINP), the only phthalate used significantly in children's toys before the ban, recommends that no risk reduction measures are needed. Nearly three years after submission of the draft by the French authorities it has still not been officially confirmed.

Debate over the risk assessment has taken some unusual turns in the interim. In October 2001 the EU's official scientific advisory committee on toxicology (Cstee) took a more precautionary line than the rapporteur. But last year seven member states re-confirmed to the European chemicals bureau that they agreed with the French draft, while three agreed with the Cstee's concerns.

With the European Commission still apparently unwilling to break this logjam, Ecpi is now concerned that the DINP risk assessment has been tabled for consideration at an EU risk reduction committee session in November. The association believes this to be inappropriate since the draft assessment recommends that no risk reduction measures are necessary.

Sources in the European Commission and European chemicals bureau were unavailable to comment on the issues raised by Ecpi today.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily



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