31 August 1998 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]Austria and Denmark have broken ranks with their European Union partners on the issue of plastic toys containing phthalates by deciding to introduce unilateral bans on the sale of the products.
Denmark has notified the European Commission, the EU executive, that starting in November, it intends to ban the use of phthalates in all toys and childcare articles for children under three years.
By the end of the year, Austria will prohibit the sale of toys that contain phthalates and are intended to be put in the mouth or can be "foreseen" to be put in the mouth by children under three.
Neither country allows for a limit to phthalate content in the toys or for tests of migration levels. Two months ago, the EU recommended that its member states could impose restrictions on phthalates in toys, but it said these should only be on toys tested for phthalate migration levels exceeding those suggested by the European Commission's advisory committee on toxicity (SCTEE).
The Danish government indicated earlier this year that it intends to ban phthalates in toys. But the Austrian government's move surprised the toy industry and its suppliers. Austria presently holds the rotating EU presidency, whose role is to gain a consensus in support of EU policy initiatives.
Observers believe that the Austrian government may want to pressure EU states for an accelerated agreement on an EU-wide restriction on phthalates in toys. Environmentalists in Austria have been campaigning for a ban.
The European Commission is awaiting the results of a Dutch study on a standardized methods for testing phthalate migration in toys, which can be applied throughout the EU.
"To introduce a ban is totally unwarranted in any case, but to introduce one ahead of the conclusion of this important research and contrary to the suggestions of the EU is against all reason," says a spokesman for the European Council for Plasticizers & Intermediates (ECPI).
"Austria's and Denmark's actions are completely contrary to the text and the spirit of the EU recommendation."
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