Toxic substances found in baby diapers in France: Government agency

Toxic substances found in baby diapers in France: Government agency

Baby nappies
File photo of nappies. (Photo: AFP/Joel Saget)

PARIS: A variety of potentially toxic substances, including the widely used weed-killer glyphosate, has been found in babies' diapers in France, according to findings of a study released on Wednesday (Jan 23) by French health agency ANSES.

The study said research had found substances including butylphenyl methylpropional used in beauty products, and certain aromatic hydrocarbons as well as glyphosate. All of them pose potential risks.

The agency said while there is no medical evidence of health problems linked to the use of disposable diapers with harmful substances, health risks cannot be excluded. 

"We cannot exclude a risk ... because we have recorded some substances that are above healthy limits," the deputy director of the Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), Gerard Lasfargues, told AFP.

The French government called a meeting of diaper manufacturers on Wednesday morning, and gave them 15 days to remove those substances from babies' diapers. 

"I want to reassure parents - ANSES says that there is no immediate risk for the health of our children," Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said after the meeting. "But it is paramount to take precautions."

The report by ANSES did not name the brands of diapers it tested. 

Glyphosate, which is off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of chemical groups, is due to be phased out in France within three years, although farmers are exempt from the ban where there is no credible alternative to the pesticide.

In a statement on Wednesday, market leader Pampers, which belongs to US consumer products group Procter & Gamble, said its diapers "are safe and have always been so".

Scientists working for ANSES tested 23 types of diapers in real-life conditions as they were worn by children, which it said was a world first.

"We calculated the amount (of chemicals) absorbed, calculated according to the time a nappy is worn, the number of nappies worn by babies, up to 36 months, and then we compared the results with toxicology standards," deputy director of ANSES Gerard Lasfargues told AFP.

An average baby in France wears 3,800 to 4,800 nappies, Lasfargues said, with the potentially hazardous chemicals found even in products marketed as environmentally friendly.

Source: Agencies/ec