New tests could provide answer to safety of PVC toys

Copyright 1998 UK Governmetn Chemist
October 28, 1998

Two new tests have been developed which represent an important advance in establishing whether certain softening agents used in the manufacture of PVC toys and childcare articles present a risk to young children.

The developments have been pioneered by scientists at LGC, the UKís largest independent analytical laboratory.

They come at a time when the European Commission is considering legislation to set limits on acceptable levels of release of softening agents, known as phthalates, from PVC toys and childcare articles intended for young children - particularly those who are teething. The Commissionís expert Committee meets in November to consider the issue further.

The potential health risks to young children caused by the release of certain softening agents, known as phthalates, in PVC toys and childcare articles has been the subject of growing concern.

The environmental lobby has called for soft PVC toys to be banned. Meanwhile, the PVC producers and toy manufacturers claim that there is no scientific basis for an EU ban.

The LGC test measures the rate at which phthalates are released from toys and childcare articles, and closely match the levels seen during human studies carried out in Holland and Austria.

Dr Julian Braybrook, Head of the Consumer Safety Team of LGC, said "The development of these tests represent the culmination of our studies into softened PVC as part of our role as technical advisers to the Consumer Affairs Directorate of the UK Department of Trade and Industry. The tests represent a solid basis for reaching a common European approach to testing not only for the release of phthalates, but other organic chemicals used in toys and childcare articles. We are now in a better position to answer the questions that this important debate raises."

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