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									                                      PRESS RELEASE

   Is chewing on erasers dangerous for the health of our kids?
                  Potential risk of exposure to phthalates from school supplies

Brussels, 9 May 2009. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in the production of plastics to
make them softer and more flexible. Because of their potential effects on human health, the
European Union has banned the use of six of these phthalates in toys and childcare articles,
especially those that children could put in their mouths. Can phthalates contained in school
supplies such as bags, pencil cases and erasers present a risk to children?
In a recent study, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found a variety of
phthalates in erasers and warned of health risks when children regularly suck and chew on
them. The overall scientific quality of the Danish EPA study has since been assessed by the
Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) of the European Commission.
At the request of the European Commission DG Health and Consumers, GreenFacts faithfully
summarised this SCHER opinion on Phthalates in school supplies.
The plain-language summary is now available from the EU Directorate General of Health and
Consumers      ( in   four
languages: English, French, Spanish and German. It is also available from GreenFacts
(, a leading publisher of scientific information that was commissioned by
the Directorate General to produce this and other summaries of scientific opinions.

          Conclusions of the SCHER Opinion on Phthalates in school supplies
The European Commission Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER)
agreed with the Danish EPA that, among all school supplies tested - including bags, pencil cases
and erasers – the only ones that may be of concern are erasers as children could repeatedly
suck or chew on them.
However, the shortcomings in the methods used by the Danish EPA to assess children’s
exposure led to great overestimates and uncertain results. The SCHER concludes that the
phthalates found in the school supplies tested by the Danish EPA do not significantly contribute
to the total amount of phthalates taken in by children.
Based on urine samples from people of different ages, it is concluded that exposures to different
phthalates in the general population are below tolerable daily intakes (TDI), except in the case
of DNBP. Exposure to DEHP may exceed the tolerable intake in some specific population groups,
namely people exposed through medical procedures such as kidney dialysis.
Even in the case when children bite off pieces from erasers and swallow them, the SCHER
considers that it is unlikely that this exposure leads to health consequences. Further research is

 For further details please visit or contact
 Stephanie Mantell +32(0)2 211 34 89            Subscribe to our RSS Feed
About GreenFacts

GreenFacts asbl/vzw is an independent, multi-stakeholder non-profit organization based in Belgium. Our
mission is to bring complex scientific reports on health and the environment to the reach of non-experts.

We publish faithful summaries of authoritative international scientific reports. The summaries are written
in a language for non-specialists and presented in a reader-friendly Three-Level Structure of increasing
detail. GreenFacts’ publications are freely available in several languages on

GreenFacts was created in 2001 by individuals from scientific institutions, environmental and health
organizations, and businesses, who called for wider access to unbiased information on health and the

     About the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER)

The SCHER (Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks) is one of three independent non-
food scientific committees set up in 2004 and renewed in 2009 by the European Commission to advise
the Commission on matters of consumer safety, public health and the environment.

The SCHER provides the Commission with unambiguous scientific advice on health and environmental
risks related to pollutants in the environmental media and other biological and physical factors or
changing physical conditions which may have a negative impact on health and the environment, for
example in relation to air quality, water, waste and soils, as well as on life cycle environmental
assessment. It also addresses health and safety issues related to the toxicity and eco-toxicity of biocides.

                                 About DG Health and Consumers

The role of Health and Consumers Directorate General of the European Commission is to make Europe’s
citizens healthier, safer and more confident. Over the years the European Union has established EU laws
on the safety of food and other products, on consumers' rights and on the protection of people's health.
The DG Health and Consumers has the task of keeping these laws up to date.

It also ensures that the national, regional or even local governments in EU countries apply the EU's
health and consumer protection laws and make sure traders, manufacturers and food producers in their
country observe the rules.

 For further details please visit or contact
 Stephanie Mantell +32(0)2 211 34 89                   Subscribe to our RSS Feed

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