UNSAFE: New EU rules allow toxic chemicals in children’s toys and other products made of recycled plastics

21.2.2019 - PRAGUE / BRUSSELS
PHOTO: Markéta Šedivá / Arnika

European Parliament and Council Decision on the Reform of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Under the agreement, high levels of hazardous brominated flame retardants that are present in electronics waste, including those banned by the Stockholm Convention, will be allowed in recycled plastics.  

The new rules allow 500 mg/kg of brominated flame retardants listed for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention in mixtures and articles. Environmental health researchers from Arnika, HEAL, and IPEN have demonstrated that the brominated flame retardants are entering the waste stream from discarded electronics. These chemicals, known to disrupt the thyroid function, and the cause of neurological and attention deficits in children, were found in a number of children's products and other consumer products made in Europe. With this limit, the European Parliament and the Council accept that our children are at risk of contamination from persistent organic pollutants. The Stockholm Convention is to eliminate globally due health and environmental concerns.

Read the letter addressed to European Parliament, European Commission, Ministers and Stockholm Convention focal points:

Response to the EU Recast Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants

A recent Toxic Loophole Report: Recycling Hazardous Waste into New Products found that 92% of laboratory tested consumer products, including toys purchased in 19 European Countries were contaminated with flame retardants, known as BDEs. Ironically, 64% of the tested products will be legal because of the unreasonably high limit set by the EU. 

“The EU has a limit of 500 mg/kg for substances, articles and permits for children's toys with toxic flame retardants. To the members of the European Parliament and Council to find it acceptable that our children play with persistent organic pollutants designated for global elimination,” said Jitka Strakova, lead research author and researcher from Arnika, who specializes in POPs.

The European Parliament and the Council of the Constitution, the Loophole, and the researchers will allow for a set of toxic chemicals to persist and harm health.

“Recycling toxic chemicals into new products of the circular economy calls for strong action from European decision-makers to eliminate them once and for all. BDEs are nothing to play with. Those endocrine disruptors are responsible for attention and neurological deficits in children,” said Genon Jensen, co-author of the study and executive director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).  

"The new EU rules conflict with obligations under the Stockholm Convention, which prohibits recycling of articles containing DecaBDE,"  said Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor at IPEN. "This is the stage for conflict at the upcoming Conference of the Parties by positioning the EU and advocates for toxic recycling."  

Dioxins, another group of highly hazardous substances, can be used unintentionally as flame retardant chemicals in plastics. The study Toxic Soup: Dioxins in Plastic Toys demonstrating contamination through recycling of BDEs also introduces dioxins into recycled plastic products, which is an additional reason to keep BDEs out of waste.

"Dioxin content in toys tested from Germany contained levels similar to those found in fly ash. Brominated dioxins are highly hazardous chemicals that are known to affect brain development, damage the immune system, and unborn children, ” explains Jindrich Petrlik, lead author of the study, Executive Director of Arnika - Toxics and Waste Program, and Co-Chair of IPEN's Dioxin, PCBs, and Waste Working Group. The EU has failed to do that."

Jitka Straka, Arnika Association, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , phone: +420 777 266 386

Laura Weide, IPEN, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , tel: +1 510 387 1739
Elke Zander, Health and Environment Alliance HEAL) , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , tel: +32 (0) 2 234 36 47

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