EU to ban six toxic chemicals in household plastics

The European Union will ban six toxic chemicals within three to five years, three of which are commonly used in plastic household items, the European Commission said on this week.

After years of heated debate, EU lawmakers agreed in 2006 on a far-reaching proposal to review the way chemicals are approved in Europe.

The EU regulation on “Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals” (REACH), aims to make chemicals safer for human health and the environment by placing the burden on businesses to prove their products are safe before they can be placed on the market.

In January last year, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) identified 29 substances that present the greatest cause for concern regarding public health and the environment. These need to go through special scrutiny before they are authorised.

A roadmap agreed by the EU executive and ECHA is expected to increase the number of chemicals on the list to 135 by 2012.

Among the compounds are three plastic softening phthalates, a musk fragrance, a flame retardant and a hardener for epoxy resin, the Commission said.

Although the most toxic phthalates have been banned in children’s toys since 1999, a survey last October showed some are commonly found in products on supermarket shelves, including items regularly used by children, such as pencil cases and erasers.

The decision is being taken under the REACH regulation on chemicals, adopted in 2006 in what has been billed as the most epic lobbying battle in the EU’s history.

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