Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Dangerous Substances

Delivered in Plenary 5th July 2000

Mr. President

This report requesting banning the use of phthalates in  some PVC children’s toys is flawed in many ways and rests on a dubious legal basis, given that the Chairman of the Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Eco-toxicity and the Environment, Professor Bridges, when he appeared before this Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy on 23rd May, stated: ‘It is hard to see how it’ – the ban – ‘would come under a scientific interpretation of serious and immediate risk’, which is the required criterion for the ban imposed in December.

The Commission seems to have ignored its own scientific committee on the basis that some Member States are imposing their own ban.  They are entirely within their rights, of course.  Instead I support the development of tests to determine migration limits, and for these to be legislated on in due course, rather than a long-term ban as proposed.  It is particularly galling that, of the six named phthalates to be banned, five are not even used for children’s toys and only two are suspected on the basis of unreplicated tests on rats.

I too am concerned for the welfare of small children, but based on reasoning and science, not on emotions.  This whole business contrasts markedly with my request for restrictions to be placed on the use of mobile phones by young children, in a formal question to the Commission under the same precautionary principle.  This was, of course, refused even though it admitted there was not research evidence on the safety of child use of mobiles and there was some data for adult brain damage in the prolonged use of mobile telephones.

A recent UK government report has recommended restrictions to child use of mobiles as a developing brain is more sensitive to electromagnetic radiation.  We have to face the fact that here in the West brain tumours have risen dramatically by some 100% over the last ten years for totally unknown reasons.

Therefore I call again on the Commission to use the precautionary principle consistently or admit that the whole thing is a politically motivated exercise with powerful commercial interests at play, undermining the precautionary principle and risking turning it into a farce.