During the past year there has been a flurry of activity worldwide
looking into the safety of using products such as plastisol screen
printing inks which contain certain phthalates. Many PVC plastics made
with phthalates face sales restrictions or bans in Europe since December
1999. The US Consumer Products Safety Commission proposed a ban in
December 1998 on the sale of some products which contain PVC. Both the US
and European directives apply to the sale of toys for children under age
three (Europe) or five (US) who could ingest phthalates through sucking on
the product. Textile articles are not included.
Studies in the US have shown that one phthalate, DINP puts few, if any,
children at risk for liver or other organ toxicity from suckable products.
A Health Canada study in 1998, however, did associate a significant risk
with DINP, but did not find any children's products containing DINP. An
additional concern has been raised over the use of phthalates and other
plasticizers, oestrogen mimicing. The chemical industry has been and
continues to research the health effects of phthalates. One such US study
of phthalates esters in November of 1999 found that exposures were
"hundreds to thousands of times less than those identified as causing
effects in animals".
There is another issue at the end of the product's life. Attempts to
recycle PVC plastics have proven difficult. If the item is burned, the
chlorine in PVCs can be transformed into dioxins, a persistent
As a precautionary measure, many major companies are phasing out the
use of PVC resins due to perceived consumer demand. For more information,
review the material available from Greenpeace at greenpeace.org,
the US Consumer Products Safety Commission at cpsc.gov, the
European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates at ecpi.org,
and the Phthalate Esters Panel at phthalates.org.