A plan to allow lead-contaminated plastics to be sold in the EU has been rejected by members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Health and environmental groups welcomed today’s vote as MEPs rejected proposed changes to rules on lead concentrations in Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – a commonly used synthetic plastic.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal which has no safe level of exposure. It can lead to permanent adverse health effects and is listed as a substance of very high concern under the EU’s REACH chemical rules because of its potential to damage several organs or even cause cancer.

Pregnant women exposed to high levels of lead can suffer miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birth weight.

Natacha Cingotti, senior policy officer for health and chemicals at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said:

“When going back to the drawing table, the EU Commission must make a proposal that is in line with its own commitments towards protecting our health and environment.”

The Commission’s plan was criticised for allowing two 15-year exceptions to strict rules on lead-content in plastic. The exceptions would have allowed ten to twenty times more heavy-metal content in products made from recycled PVC.

Those plans will now have to be re-examined and the rules will likely be strengthened.

Thousands of citizens contacted MEPs this week to ask them to stand up for their health by rejecting the proposal and campaigners are hailing the vote as a victory for a safe circular economy.

Tatiana Santos, chemicals policy manager at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:

“We need to remove known toxic chemicals from our homes and environment, not add more. The circular economy cannot become a dumping ground for contaminants. Fortunately, the European Parliament stood up for that principle today.”

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