European Commission Errs on Toys (11/10/99)
The decision by the European Commission to ban certain infant toys made of vinyl/PVC as a precaution is shortsighted, politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and will spread unnecessary alarm among parents. The ban affects toys intended to be mouthed for fear that phthalates, a commonly used plastic softener, might prove toxic to children under three.
The Commission's action, in effect, reversed an earlier position taken by its own Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and Environment (SCTEE), which had ruled unequivocally that "soft PVC toys pose no serious and immediate health risk." Vinyl toys have been used by children the world over for more than 40 years with no ill effects.
In its announcement, the Commission said phthalates have been shown to cause "liver, kidney and testicular damage." What it does not say is that these effects were observed only in rats fed doses far higher than could be conceivably extracted by a child sucking on a teether.
The environmentalist group Greenpeace, to further its own agenda, has for years been advocating just such a ban. The ban by the European Commission raises concerns about the long-term implications of political and emotional pressure placed on the Commission being allowed to contradict the overwhelming body of scientific evidence. In the short term, of course, it means that parents will be denied the right to purchase toys and baby care items which are perfectly safe.
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The International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), an association of toy trade associations, represents the majority of the toy manufacturers around the world.