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Thursday, July 2, 1998 Published at 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK


Rubber ducks in toxic lather

The innocent-looking rubber duck may hide toxic dangers

The humble rubber duck may be forced to undergo a makeover because of fears that it may be toxic.

BBC Consumer Affairs correspondent Denise Mahoney reports.
The European Commission has told its Consumer Affairs Commissioner Emma Bonino to advise member states of the potential risks of PVC with a view to them taking action on it.

Many rubber ducks and other toys are made from PVC which contains chemicals which may be harmful if released into the environment.

Environmental and consumer groups fear that sucking or chewing the toys could cause long-term health problems, including cancer.

The European Commission's decision, taken on Wednesday, is a blow to Ms Bonino, who was seeking an outright ban on the toys. She was opposed by other commissioners such as Martin Bangemann, the Industry Commissioner, who said the risk to humans had not been proved.


Environmental group Greenpeace, which has been campaigning for the PVC toy ban, has accused the American government of lobbying against it.

[ image: Emma Bonino was seeking a ban on PVC toys]
Emma Bonino was seeking a ban on PVC toys
It says it has documents which show the US has been lobbying the European Commission on behalf of toy giant Mattel, maker of Barbie.

The classic doll, which is also made of PVC, has been making a comeback and is beginning to acquire cult status.

An outright ban would have proved expensive to toy manufacturers who would have had to find alternative materials for their products.


The chemicals used in PVC help to make toys more flexible. However, laboratory studies on animals show that they may be poisonous if released into the environment.

They may cause cancer, kidney damage, reproductive disorders and affect children's later development.

Spain and Denmark has banned PVC toys and Greenpeace is urging the British government to follow suit.

Mark Strutt of Greenpeace said: "We would like the British government to immediately legislate on this problem to tell toy retailers that they must take soft PVC toys off the shelves so that British children are protected from the potential risk of ingesting these chemicals."

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