STRASBOURG,FRANCE - July 5 - Children's plastic toys sold in Europe are to be made safer following a decision by the European Parliament today to ban manufacturers from using six toxic chemicals to soften the plastic. The ban follows evidence that the chemicals, shown to damage the kidneys, liver and sex organs in animals, can be ingested by children who suck the products. (1)
Greenpeace first showed that children were being exposed to high levels of these chemicals in 1997, when it tested a wide range of popular PVC plastic toys, such as bath ducks, dolls and baby's teethers (2). A bitter battle ensued for eight years while the chemical and toy industries fought hard to prevent today's decision.
"This ban was hard won and 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 of Greenpeace European Unit. (3)
Greenpeace campaigns for all industries to stop using hazardous chemicals and to replace them with safer alternatives, a process called 'substitution'. Europe is the world's largest chemical producer and yet the majority of chemicals manufactured and used everyday have never been properly tested. For those that have been tested and found to be toxic, it can take years for them to be controlled; and even then their use in consumer products may still be allowed. As a result our environment and even our own bodies are contaminated.
Today's case highlights how slow the current process for regulating chemicals is and the urgent need for a much stronger, more comprehensive law. The EU is currently preparing a new chemicals law called REACH, which aims to ban or control a wide range of dangerous chemicals used in all our products. Yet the chemical industry has already succeeded in getting most of the 100,000 chemicals currently in use excluded from the rules.
"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. We can all make a difference by shopping wisely and choosing environmentally sound products, but only by demanding tougher laws can we be sure that all hazardous chemicals are replaced with safer alternatives," said Haiama-Neurohr.
For information on cleaner products you can buy - http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/Products/Toxics/
Take action - http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/Products/Toxics/getactive.cfm
1) Phthalates DEHP, DBP and BBP, which are classified as toxic to reproduction, have been banned in all toys and childcare articles. DINP, DIDP and DNOP have been banned in toys and childcare articles that can be put in the mouth. The new rules will be mandatory a year after the legislation is published, probably in 2-3 months, i.e. by autumn 2006. For information about the uses and risks of phthalates, see Greenpeace report, Consuming Chemicals (May 2003), pp 62-64, at http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/MultimediaFiles/Live/FullReport/5679.pdf
2) Following the Greenpeace report, the European Parliament introduced an emergency, temporary ban on these phthalates in some products in 1999, and removed some products from the shelves. See http://www.greenpeace.to/publications_pdf/toy_final_1997.PDF
3) For more information about the many other problems associated with PVC plastic, which arise during its manufacture, use and disposal, see: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/toxics/polyvinyl-chloride/
4) Greenpeace tested more toys in spring 2005. The study found Spiderman Flip 'n Zip and Mattel's Barbie "Fashion Fever" contained high levels of the harmful phthalate DINP and detected phthalates DIDP at 1% by weight in the Barbie doll. Toys contained other phthalates such as DCHP and DEHP as well as other classes of undesirable ingredients in the toys, namely organotins and nonylphenol.
See 'The Chemical Shopping Basket - Chemical Analyses of 12 Consumer Products' http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/chem/ShoppingBasketbriefing050429.pdf and the tests report at http://www.greenpeace.org/italytnoreport