Sir: Charles Arthur's article "Three countries ban chemicals at centre of baby milk alert" (29 May) has added to the misinformation surrounding this issue.
Evidence that phthalates are "xenoestrogens" is much weaker than Mr Arthur suggests. There is as yet no agreed test method for screening chemicals for their oestrogenic potential. Tests currently in use have produced widely differing, often conflicting results. No phthalates have yet been proven to be oestrogenic.
Phthalates are not used in PVC food packaging or wrapping manufactured in the UK. It is not true to say that Sweden has decided to phase out the use of PVC. No such decision has been taken. It is true that the government has asked the Swedish Environmental Protection Board and the Swedish Chemical Inspectorate to undertake studies on PVC to be completed by the end of June 1996.
Nor is the picture of the German market accurate. While it is true that some local authorities have taken steps to limit PVC, this was solely due to strong campaigning by pressure groups. The vast majority of municipalities have never had any limitation against PVC and indeed the trend has been for local authorities to rescind earlier limitations once they had become acquainted with the scientific basis of PVC's use.
Finally the Swedish government has not banned phthalates. The study published by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency did not arrive at any firm conclusions, nor was it intended to, and the government has not taken any action based on the report. As phthalates are readily photodegradable and biodegradable they are highly unlikely to persist in the environment.
Similarly, in Germany, no governmental agency has taken any action against phthalates. Where in the limited number of cases PVC was restricted, the motivation was to prevent its use in construction applications. A large proportion of these are in rigid PVC which does not make use of any plasticiser, phthalate or otherwise.
PHILIP K LAW
The British Plastics Federation
London EC2Reuse content