Letter: Safe plastic toys

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The British Plastics Federation is fully aware of the Dutch Consensus Group study mentioned in your report "Additive in toys linked to cancer" (14 January). This study confirmed the safety of phthalate plasticised PVC toys. The results of the co-ordinated studies by the group showed exposure to phthalates from toys in real life chewing situations to be much less than had been supposed by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment. On 30 November the committee recognised this in revised advice to the European Commission.

The use of PVC in toys in general accounts for a very small proportion of PVC consumption. Other polymers are used in toy applications, such as ABS and polypropylene, which also have good technical and aesthetic qualities. However, PVC in general can't necessarily be substituted by these polymers in PVC toy or babycare applications.

Neither DEHP nor DINP has been shown to be carcinogenic to humans. The animal studies mentioned were followed by investigations which showed that the mechanism involved in producing the cancer in rats (peroxisome proliferation) was specific to the biology of rodent species. The same effects were not observed in primates and in 1995 an international symposium of approximately 100 scientists from government agencies, academia and industry supported this conclusion.

The "testicle shrinking" allegation probably follows recent claims that phthalates can mimic the female hormone oestrogen. In fact, studies have recently shown that none of the commercially available phthalates produces oestrogen-like effects.

Some five generations of children around the world have played with, and chewed on, PVC toys and there is no evidence of adverse effects.


British Plastics Federation

London EC2