Commission further limits consumers' harmful exposure to phthalates

The European Commission has adopted a decision to restrict the use of four phthalates (DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP) - substances known to have toxic effects on human reproductive health – in consumer products on the EU market. 

The restriction decision has been adopted by amending the EU's REACH regulation  the most advanced and comprehensive chemicals legislation in the world. 

The REACH regulation has already allowed the EU to significantly reduce our citizens’ exposure to harmful chemicals over the last 10 years and the Commission constantly evaluates how to further enhance the protection of consumers, workers and the environment. 

Substances including the four phthalates can be present in plasticised materials in a wide variety of everyday products, from cables and coated fabrics to sport equipment. Consumers can be exposed to phthalates through oral or skin exposure or by breathing dust particles with such substances. Today's decision will complement the existing restriction on three phthalates in toys and other childcare articles. 

It will extend the existing rules to include four phthalates and cover all consumer items containing these substances. 

The restriction follows the scientific and technical recommendations by the European Chemicals Agency, and will come into effect as of June 2020.

Meanwhile, companies in the European Union have increased their investment in research and development (R&D) for the eighth consecutive year, according to the new 2018 Industrial R&D Scoreboard published by the Commission on Monday.

The findings show that EU companies' 2017 R&D investments grew by 5.5% as compared to the previous year. In a telling sign of an ever more dynamic global technological race, the growth achieved by European companies is however outpaced by their US and Chinese counterparts, which have seen their R&D investment rise by 9% and 20% respectively. 

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "The Scoreboard is a timely reminder of Europe’s strengths and weaknesses in the world of corporate R&D. EU companies are leading the global technology race in strategic industrial sectors such as automobiles, pharma or aeronautics. But we come up short in the deep-tech areas that are shaping the next wave of innovation, such as artificial intelligence or new materials. 

That's where the future European Innovation Council will play an important role, investing in companies with high risk and scaling-up potential that can create new markets.” 

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, added: “A strong knowledge base is key in making sure our companies can compete on a global scale. The Scoreboard shows that businesses choose to base their production and research and development activities where they find highly qualified, creative, entrepreneurial people and knowledge. 

That is why promoting professional and university education in leading scientific fields, notably science, technology, engineering and maths, is crucial to build a competitive, resilient Europe.” In Europe, the growth in R&D investments in the last year has been driven by the automobile, health and ICT sectors. 

The Scoreboard also shows that the top 2,500 R&D investing global companies, among which 577 are European, have accounted for 90% of the world’s business-funded R&D, amounting to €736.4 billion in 2017 and achieving an increase of 8.3% compared to the year before. 

Reversing the global trend of previous years, the report also clearly shows that the growth in R&D investments has been accompanied by an increase in overall profits, recovered capital expenditures and a modest increase in generated employment. 

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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