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Greenpeace achieves toxic chemicals ban in toys

Greenpeace wins battle to ban toxic chemicals in plastic toys

Strasbourg 5 July 2005 - 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.

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