Hidden dangers in plastic ducks in your bathtub
CEOC International discusses with experts from the European Institutions, the consumer organisations, manufacturers and scientists ways of how to ensure a maximum safety level for children in Europe.
Children explore the world with all their senses. Apart from food and clothes, toys are the objects children have the most contact with. They do not only play with them, they touch them, put them in their mouth, lick or even chew them. The revised EU Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC provides a new regulation of chemical substances.
North-Rhine Westphalia’s Minister of Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection Johannes Remmel – as well as his German colleagues and counterparts - believes the Regulation could have gone a step further and should be improved.
There is a need to minimize the exposure of children in particular to carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic chemicals, the so-called CMR substances. In the eyes of many stakeholders, the rules laid down in the EU Toy Safety Directive do not go far enough and argue that these substances must be forbidden without any exception and may not be reintroduced in toys through a loophole, as is the case with the new Toy Safety Directive. Especially for children as most vulnerable consumers, we have to use the stronger rules of the precautionary principles.
Speakers included MEP Heide Rühle (Greens, Germany), Mattia Pellegrini (Member of Cabinet of the Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani), Catherine Van Reeth (Secretary General Toys Industries of Europe), Gerd Billen (Managing Director of German Consumers Association) and Bärbel Vieth (German Institute for Risk Assessment).
CEOC International and its members believe that no compromise should be made with view to the safety of children and support a strong and powerful EU legislation in this respect.
Around 1000 toys are tested in Nord-Rhine Westphalia by the authorities every year, but – according to Minister Remmel – this is by far not enough. Mandatory introduction of the GS mark for imports at EU level could already bring safety a big step forward, according to Remmel.
Mr Pellegrini from the European Commission admitted there were some shortcomings in the new Toy Safety Directive, but also reminded that it is the strictest toy legislation world-wide. He announced that the European Commission has created a special Working group on toys which will first meet in December 2010. Regarding the chemical aspects, some improvements could be made, but that at the current stage it is also vitally necessary to focus on proper implementation and enforcement of existing rules.
MEP Heide Rühle (Greens, Germany) deplored the lack of consultation of the European Parliament by the Commission and pleaded for considerably increasing investments in the field of market surveillance and customs.
Dr Vieth warned that linking the EU Toy Safety Directive to the Chemicals legislation is not adequate. Given the fact that children very often put toys in their mouths for example, as strict rules as for food legislation and food contact materials should apply.
From the toy manufacturers’ side, Catherine Van Reeth reminded that over the past 20 years the toy sector has experienced an unprecedented growth and diversification and that therefore of course new rules are required. TIE is currently working on a special education initiative in the EU where manufacturers, notified bodies, authorities etc. will be invited do sit around one table and discuss challenges in the toy sector.
Mr Billen of the German Consumers Association “Stiftung Warentest” deplored that 80% of tested toys contain hazardous substances and therefore calls for a “purity law” on toys (referring to the German purity law on beer).
He suggested that one should not wait for the next revision of the Toy Safety Directive, but that for example big retailers could already informally agree on strict safety regulations (also concerning imports) beforehand.
Dr Steffen from the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU said the introduction of a European safety and quality mark would be the best solution.
Minister Remmel concluded that – taking into consideration the contributions from all participants – one should opt for a quick revision of the Toy Safety Directive. Until then, it would already help to set voluntary higher benchmarks, as suggested by Mr Billen, and also to strengthen preventive controls by third-parties. In the end, he said, an improved consumer protection is not only burdensome for entrepreneurs and industry, but will also lead to optimised market opportunities and contribute to the benefit of all.
Major changes compared to the previous toy directive 88/378/EEC are:
EC declaration of conformity
A requirement for an EC declaration of conformity drawn up by the manufacturer is added.
Safety assessments/risk assessments
It is specified safety assessments/risk assessments must be carried out. Manufacturers are obliged to identify any hazards that a toy may present. The assessment must be kept in the technical documentation.
Requirements for production control are more specified. Internal production control is based on the manufacturer’s own responsibility and requires self verification and monitoring of the manufacturing process by the manufacturer in order ensure compliance of the manufactured product
New chemical requirements
New mechanical requirements for toys sold with food
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