MEPs vote to tighten rules on toy safety

11/11/2008

Stricter rules on toys imports from China, as well as bans on dangerous substances such a mercury or lead in the composition of toys allowed on the EU market could soon apply after an unanimous vote on Thursday in the European Parliament's internal market committee.

The vote comes after some 500 stricter amendments were passed on the new regulation put forward by the European Commission earlier this year.

The deputies wish to see a ban on the most harmful metals, such as mercury and lead, as well as limited use of chemical substances and odours, for instance in educational toys that simulate certain smells.

However, endocrine disrupters - chemicals that act like hormones and interfere with their function - are not specifically mentioned in this directive, because they are already regulated by the REACH directive, she said.

Safety warnings and toy manuals would be also submitted to stricter rules, while websites that sell toys would need to publish warnings.

British Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, chair of the internal market committee expressed her confidence that the full sitting of the house would also vote in favour of the bill.

"These amendments will improve [existing] standards and [the commission's proposed] new rules for toy safety and imports from third countries, as 80 percent of EU toys are imported, especially from China," Ms McCarthy said, adding that in the case of her home country, the UK, imports account for 95 percent of the toys available on the market.

The current toy safety rules go back to 1988 and are no longer appropriate for the new generation of toys, Belgian MEP Marianne Thyssen, the deputy responsible for shepherding the legislation through the parliament told a news conference on Thursday.

"An upgrade of the directive is needed so that children, as the most vulnerable consumers, are better protected and parents have a guarantee that each toy they buy in the European Union complies with the strictest safety standards," she said.

"The commission has already put forward a lot of safety rules, but we felt there were areas where clarifications and stricter regulation was needed," Ms Thyssen explained.

Other amendments include provisions that toys that are not packaged separately but instead are inserted in food or sweets will also be banned, while those that are packaged separately should be big enough not to get stuck in a child's throat, Ms Thyssen added.

In terms of market supervision, toy manufacturers would be obliged to make a complete technical dossier for each toy and carry out a safety assessment prior to marketing it.

After a vote of the full sitting of the parliament, the bill will move on to discussion at the Council level, with Ms McCarthy hoping that a second reading won't be needed so as to have the directive adopted before the European elections next June.

Source and more information: http://euobserver.com/9/27062

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