Revised EU phthalates opinion causes new rows

An EU scientific committee has revised its estimates of the margin of safety for two plasticisers used in children's' toys, leading environmental groups to call for an emergency ban and industry associations to claim zero risks.

In the light of new evidence from a Dutch study the EU Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (SCTEE) revised its margin of safety for the most commonly used plasticiser DINP up from 8.8 to 75, but said that this still “raises some concern since it is less than the recommended safety margin of at least 100“.

For a second substance, DEHP, the current estimated margin of safety was revised down from 67 to 19. The SCTEE said this “raises more concern …. because the critical effect (testicular damage) is judged to be of higher relevance“.

According to Greenpeace, the SCTEE report “reconfirms the health hazards of soft PVC toys to small children”. Greenpeace and the European consumer association BEUC have called on EU consumer protection Commissioner, Emma Bonino, to propose an emergency ban on soft PVC toys for children under three.

The European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates said the SCTEE opinion demonstrated the safety of plasticisers: “There is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that the phthalate plasticisers, used to make toys soft and flexible, are a health hazard to children. And yet Greenpeace and the European consumer organisation BEUC continue to frighten parents with misguided suggestions that they might be carcinogenic to children or cause human reproductive problems“.

The SCTEE concludes: “The MOS for DINP raises some concern as it is less than the previously recommended safety margin of at least 100. The MOS for DEHP raises clear concern. Exposure to DINP and DEHP from other sources than soft PVC toys will increase the concern, but the magnitude of such exposures is uncertain“. It called for more research to assess variable such as paths of exposure, different toys and child behaviour patterns.

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