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GREENPEACE URGES RETAILERS TO
WITHDRAW VINYL BABY TOYS

Health Canada has reacted to Greenpeace's findings by initiating its own tests on PVC toys on sale in Canada to verify the levels of phthalates used to soften the plastic. When interviewed on CBC radio last Friday, Francois Dignard, Chief of Health Canada's Consumer Products Division refused to confirm soft PVC toys were safe. Mr. Dignard stated that his department will also conduct a separate study to determine the exact amounts of hazardous chemicals ingested by young children when they suck or chew on toys made from PVC.

When similar studies conducted earlier this year by Danish and Dutch govenments revealed alarming results, the Dutch Chief Inspector of Public consumer Health Protection wrote to toy distributors urging them to stop marketing soft PVC toys for babies.

In a number of European countries, retailers are abandoning PVC, which is easily replaced by natural materials or other plastics that do not require softeners (2). Last May, Danish superstore chains FDB and May Bilka and Swedish chain KF stopped selling soft PVC toys for children under three. Last July the major Dutch retailer Blokker announced that it would no longer order toys containing PVC for children under three. Blokker also specified that it would not purchase toys using PVC packaging. In August, the largest Dutch retailer de Bijenkorf removed known PVC toys from it shelves.

For more information contact:

Editors' Notes:

1. Determination of the Composition and Quantity of Phthalate Ester Additives in PVC Children's Toys Report, Greenpeace Science Unit.


President, Toys R Us (Canada) Ltd.
2777 Longstaff Road
Concord, Ontario L4K 4M5

Dear Mr Van Beek:

In a survey of toys from 17 countries including Canada, Greenpeace has found that almost all of those made from soft PVC plastic (vinyl) contain large quantities of hazardous plasticizers called phthalates. All four toys we bought in Canada contained diisononyl phthalate (DINP) in proportions ranging from 20 to 38 per cent. This is likely to be typical of any soft PVC toy.

DINP is a hazardous chemical that has been shown, in laboratory animals, to cause liver and kidney disorders, damage to the reproductive tract, and increased incidence of certain cancers. Recent research has also shown it to be a weak estrogen mimic in human cell lines. When DINP is bought for use in the laboratory, it is labelled with phrases including "harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed", "possible risk of irreversible effects" and "may cause cancer".

Most of the toys in our survey are intended for babies and children under three, and many are specifically designed to be sucked and chewed. It has been known for many years that phthalates are released from soft PVC during use, especially in conditions of mechanical stress such as chewing. Studies conducted earlier this year by the Danish and Dutch governments showed that children sucking on soft PVC toys could exceed the tolerable daily intake of DINP by up to 40 times.

These findings led the Dutch Chief Inspector of Public Consumer Health Protection, Dr. F. Schuring, to say, in a letter to toy importers and distributors dated July 16, 1997, "... I am urging you to no longer market toys for babies which contain PVC which has been softened. In addition, I would ask you to give serious consideration to a voluntary recall of the PVC toys with a high phthalate content which were investigated by my inspectorate, so that the confidence of the consumer in the safety of toys is not shaken."

Retail chains that have already taken action include FDB and May Bilka (Denmark) and KF (Sweden), who have stopped selling soft PVC toys for children under three; major Dutch retailer Blokker, who has stated that all future orders for toys for the under threes would specify that they contain no PVC; and the largest Dutch retailer de Bijenkorf, which has removed known PVC toys from its shelves.

Health Canada has refused to confirm the safety of soft PVC toys, and has announced that it has already initiated studies similar to those conducted by the Danish and Dutch governments. We are calling on you to move proactively to remove all soft PVC toys for children under three from your shelves now. In addition, we call on you to immediately initiate labelling of all your toys with the types of plastics they contain.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Bramley, Morag Simpson Toxics Campaigners, Greenpeace Canada

[Letters to Wal-Mart and Zellers are identical]


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