>PVC has been used in toys for more than 40 years. So far, there
is not one known case of a child's health ever having been harmed
as a result of using soft PVC toys. However, when Greenpeace started
claiming that children could be harmed by the plastic toys, it caught
the attention of the media and policy makers.
The European Commission has taken the position to ban six types
of plasticizers (softeners). The ban doesnt apply to PVC itself,
but concerns certain components may migrate or leak from PVC toys
and then cause health problem.
In fact, many other material used for toys, such as rubbers, wood,
PVC, contains components that can be extracted by chewing or sucking.
The toxicity of any components used in the manufacture of toys must
be understood before they are used and the level of exposure known
before the suitability of the various materials can be assessed.
All materials which are used to make toys have to be thoroughly
tested and assessed before use.
PVC in toys:
For decades PVC has been a popular material for kinds of childrens
products and toys made from PVC or containing PVC, include Dolls,
Bath ducks, Inflatable beach toys, Paddling pools, Balls and baby
care items. PVC's popularity in toys is because of its advantages
on material, cost and safety.
PVC is versatile. It can be used for both flexible and
rigid toys with kaleidoscopic colors and can be formulated
to get the exact performance and quality requirements.
PVC is durable and can be used for long-lasting toys.
PVC toys can be mass-produced and allows design flexibility,
factors that are very important for toy manufacturers
to produce affordable toys, especially for the fast changing
theme of popularity
||PVC toys are safe:
PVC meets all international standards for safety and health.
It has been used for more than 40 years and is the world's
most researched and thoroughly tested plastic. Studies
have shown that there is no health risk to children playing
with PVC toys. At the end of a PVC toy's useful life,
it can be recycled. Lifecycle analysis have shown that
PVC is a very competitive and environmentally acceptable
||Alternatives to PVC in toys:
Based on the study and PVC's advantages in toys, there
is no substantial reasons to replace PVC. All substitutes
without proven technical and safety would require additional
research that usually leads to higher cost.
PVC in medical products:
In their ongoing campaign against chlorine-based chemical compounds,
Greenpeace and a coalition of environmental activists called Health
Care Without Harm (HCWH) is seeking to limit or prohibit the use
of PVC in medical products.
There is no evidence of adverse effects from medical use of PVCs,
confirmed by five to seven billion patient days of acute exposure
over more than 40 years and one to two billion patient days of chronic
exposure (such as patients receiving dialysis). In fact, PVC is
the only flexible material approved by the European Pharmacopoeia
for life-saving medical devices, and it is approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Since there is no evidence of harm, the only reason to ban PVCs
is "just to be on the safe side." But what are the trade-offs? What
beneficial products will we lose? What new risks will immerge from
||In the U.S., 25 percent of all medical devices
made with plastic use PVC -- including flexible tubing,
intravenous bags, catheters and protective gloves.
||Vinyl medical products are particularly
important for blood storage, with 12 million units of
blood collected in PVC blood bags each year in the U.S.
||The shelf life of red blood cells is actually
doubled when stored in vinyl bags.
||Alternative products are more expensive,
less effective or untested.
But the HCWH essentially calls for a standard that requires proving
there is 'no risk' from a product before it can be used, and for
withdrawing existing products whenever anyone expresses a concern,
regardless of the impact on health care.
Plasticizers... What are plasticizers?
A plasticizer is a substance which when added to a material, usually
a plastic, makes it flexible, resilient and easier to handle. Modern
plasticizers are synthetic organic chemicals - esters, such as adipates
and phthalates. More importantly, they are not just additives (like
pigments or fillers). Rather they are major components that determine
the physical properties of polymer products. Plasticizers are also
used in rubber products, paints, printing inks, adhesives, lubricants
and some cosmetics. However, the majority of plasticizers are used
in the production of flexible PVC.
Plasticizers included primary plasticizers and secondary plasticizers.
Usually plasticizers mainly refer to primary ones. They include:
||Adipates: for low temperature applications,
||Phosphates: low volatility, but mainly
for fire retardant purpose because of cost concern
||Phthalates: the current most common
||Trimelliates: usually for high temperature
applications such as cable and wire
||Sebactaes & Azelates: limited
to superior low temperature applications
||Citrates: medical equipment and packaging
Secondary plasticizers, also known as extenders, do not impart flexibility
to the PVC resin alone and are combined with a primary plasticizer.
Ban of phthalates
The most commonly used plasticizers are phthalates. They are colorless,
odorless liquids. Their principle use is to soften the popular plastic,
polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Plasticized PVC is used in a wide range
of applications such as medical tubing and bloodbags, footwear,
stationery goods, flooring and wall-coverings, electrical cable
insulation, clothing and toys.
The most common phthalates are di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP,
also sometimes called DOP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and diisononyl
phthalate (DINP). In toys, DINP is currently used to give raw PVC
the desired qualities of flexibility.
Phthalate plasticizers are increasingly facing resistance for application
in flexible PVC toys, medical products like blood bags and tubes
as well as for food packaging. Phthalates are considered to be of
some risk to human health. There is an increasing concern by public
and regulatory agencies about any bad effect that could arise from
Phthalates, even though it may not yet be scientifically proven.
A study carried out showed that Asian mothers would be willing to
pay more to ensure safe toys. The European Commission has introduced
a ban on the rise of Phthalates in teething toys (i.e. toys for
young children who are likely to chew the toys).
Some other members of ECC, like Italy, prohibit use of phthalates
beyond 5% in packaging of food products while many others cautiously
limited the amount of phthalates to 0.05% (500ppm) of individual
or total six phthalates, DINP, DNOP, DEHP(or DOP), DIDP, BBP and
DBP). EU risks assessments are expected to be available in early
2001. In USA, according to ASTM F963, pacifiers, rattles and teether
that contain more than 3% DEHP should be banned. While teething
toys is relatively a small market, the international toy manufacturers
such as Mattel or Toys "R" US have decided to phase out phthalates
across the entire range of flexible PVC toys.
As the public debate is going on, toy manufacturers are trying hard
to look for alternative plasticizers to phthalates rather than give
up using PVC in toys. This is because the irreplaceable benefits
of PVC in toy applicant. Current most commonly used alternatives
to these six phthalates are:
||DINA EPZ (Edible Plasticizer)
||TXIB Plasticizer (commonly called hard oil)
Several producers of flexible PVC products have been switching over
to alternate benign plasticizers such as Citric Acid Esters or Polyesters.
A major stumbling block for usage of citric acid plasticizer is
its cost compared to phthalates.
Polyester introduced in Japan of slightly lower cost as compared
to citrate plasticizer could provide a cost effective alternate.
However both of these options increase cost of PVC toys. This may
provide an opportunity to thermoplastic elastomers to emerge as
strong competition to flexible PVC products.