A toxic chemical which harms unborn children has been authorised for widespread use in plastics like packaging and everyday products. The European Commission voted to allow the use of DEHP – a hormone-harming chemical linked to decreased fertility and developmental problems in children – in recycled PVC for the next four years.
DEHP is so dangerous because it is fat soluble and easily leaches into the surrounding environment – whether that be food, skin or liquids. The European Parliament voted in an overwhelming majority to ban it, but the committee charged with chemicals regulation ignored this. Although the committee admitted that the risks of DEHP are not controlled, they nonetheless said it should be authorised, after the European Chemicals Agency said society cannot afford a slight increase in costs for substitutes.
ClientEarth Lawyer Vito Buonsante said: “DEHP does not just stay in plastic – it leaks out and harms people and the environment. Many European companies have successfully substituted DEHP for less dangerous substances. This vote creates a negative precedent that obsolete toxics are still welcome in the EU, even if they are dangerous. Another four years of uncontrolled use of DEHP in toxic plastics will be our legacy for future generations.”
Toxic plastics must be swapped for safe alternatives
The Commission based its decision on a flawed application for authorisation which lacks many of the elements needed to assess the risks and benefits of using the chemical.
In March, ClientEarth and other health campaigners called for a ban of DEHP and three other hormone-harming toxics in recycled PVC, saying the risk to health and the environment was unacceptable, and alternative materials were readily available and economically feasible.