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Phthalates in toys – A continuing problem

Monday, 16 December 2013 at 12:01:PM

Phthalate molecular formulaI posted earlier this year on the experimental challenge posed by determining cause and effect for endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals are thought to disrupt the action of hormone receptors in humans, and include well-known hazardous compounds such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), bisphenol A (BPA) and brominated flame retardants.

However, there has long been particular concern relating to phthalates, a group of EDCs that have seen widespread use as plasticisers (for example, in ‘soft PVC’). This has led to a 2005 EU Directive banning the use of bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, dibutyl phthalate and butyl benzyl phthalate in children's toys, and the import of toys containing these chemicals.

Despite this ban, there are occasional reports of phthalate-containing toys making it to the marketplace, and yesterday a regional BBC news article highlighted a case of suspect dolls being found for sale in Kent, UK. This shows that despite EU regulation, toys containining phthalates remain in circulation, and that continued work is needed – firstly screening in order to identify toys that pose a hazard, and secondly continued vigilance to ensure that banned items do not make it to the marketplace.

As far as screening is concerned, Markes has been working hard to develop methods that make it as easy as possible to detect volatile organic compounds such as phthalates in consumer goods. In particular, by producing microchamber equipment that enables volatiles emitted from products to be sampled directly onto sorbent tubes, we’re helping analysts to make the job of detecting these chemicals quicker and more reliable. In so doing, we believe we’re making a significant contribution to ensuring that childrens’ toys are as safe as possible.

David Barden

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