|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 17, 1998
|CONTACT: Greenpeace International
Madeleine Cobbing, Greenpeace International, +44 1453 753 988
Luisa Colasimone, Greenpeace Communication, +31 20 524 9546
Publishes New Memos Revealing Mattel, Exxon And US Government Attempts To Undermine PVC
- June 17 - Greenpeace today released new documents revealing
that Mattel, Exxon and the US government are behind the European Commission's further
delay and possible abandonment of a proposal for an emergency ban on certain types of PVC
One document reveals the close ties Mattel has with the US government on this issue. The
letter, from Fermin Cuza, Mattel's senior vice-president to US Commerce Secretary William
Daley, states "I am writing to express Mattel's appreciation for the invaluable work
being done by the European country desk of Commerce's Market Access and Compliance
office" (1). Fermin points to Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for
Europe, Charles Ludolph, as having been "critical in helping the US toy industry
defend against recent EU initiatives to ban the use of PVC in toys" and for
"aggressively fighting these restrictive European actions."
Another document shows cooperation between the US government and the Exxon Corporation.
The cable from the US Representative to the EU in Brussels, Vernon Weaver, to Washington
and US missions in Europe extends "heartfelt thanks to all EU posts .... in making
contact with member state representatives of the EU Product Safety Emergencies Committee.
We are told by Exxon Chemical Europe Inc. that the input was very effective and the
weigh-in was invaluable." (2)
Emma Bonino's proposal [Consumer Affairs Commissioner] would have initiated an emergency
ban on PVC toys marketed to be put in a child's mouth and containing two hazardous
softeners, known as phthalates. Last week the proposal was rejected by European
Commissioners and Bonino was asked to return today, with a further proposal to set
'migration limits' for phthalates in soft PVC toys.
"Establishing safe levels for hazardous softeners in PVC toys is ridiculous -the EU
should ensure that these dangerous products are kept out of the mouths of babies,"
said Madeleine Cobbing of Greenpeace International. "We applaud the efforts of
Commissioner Bonino and urge her to continue working for the emergency procedure and
The Industry Commissioner, Martin Bangemann, who is opposed to a ban, will meet today with
the Danish Minister for Environment and Energy, Svend Auken, to discuss emergency and long
term restrictions on soft PVC toys. Auken is quoted in two Danish papers as saying that
"if Emma Bonino's main problem is resistance from Bangemann's General Directorate,
then it would be good to talk to the chief of the Directorate" (3). Commenting upon
the news that Mattel is lobbying actively to obstruct the ban as long as possible, Auken
said: "They had better prepare themselves for a ban. I don't care if it is Danish,
American or Hong Kong toy producers. It can't be right that children should run a health
risk by playing with toys."
One of the softeners under scrutiny, DEHP, had already been voluntarily withdrawn by toy
makers in the US in 1985. DEHP was classified in 1987 as a possible human carcinogen by
the International Agency for Research on Cancer (4).
"How can the US toy industry force a double standard in Europe and get away with
it?" asked Cobbing. "The European Commission is surrendering children's health
to the toy and chemical manufacturers' profits and the US government."
Despite the efforts of the US, a growing number of EU countries are supporting more
stringent measures. In May, the Swedish government proposed a legal ban on softeners in
toys for children under three, joining Austria and Denmark in proposing regulatory action.
Several German toy companies have now replaced their PVC toys with alternatives, labeling
them clearly as `PVC-free'. Others like Lego, are eliminating soft PVC toys from their
product line. Recently, a large Argentinian toy producer, Babelito, announced it has
withdrawn soft PVC products from sale and production.
The entire life cycle of PVC plastic is a polluting process. Its production involves
highly toxic precursors and generates hazardous emissions and wastes. When burned in
accidental fires or waste incinerators, PVC is a significant source of dioxin and
secondary hazardous wastes.
Note for the editors:
(1) Copies of the documents, (obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request in the
US), are available from Greenpeace.
(2) see above
(3) Aktuelt, 13 June 1998 and Berlingske Tidende, 15 June 1998.
(4) In an opinion from 24 April 1998, the EU Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity
and the Environment concluded that PVC teething rings leach softeners known as phthalates
up to ten times what was considered the acceptable level. DINP and DEHP were singled out
as those raising the most concern. The opinion of the Scientific Committee is available on
the internet at the following address:
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