The chemicals include some which are added intentionally such as fragrances and other chemicals that could come from contaminated raw materials or manufacturing processes, for which threshold values were exceeded, and the agency recommends eliminating or reducing their levels as much as possible. Specifically, the list of chemicals includes glyphosate, lindane, Quintozen, hexachlorobenzene, benzyl alcohol and butylphenyle as well as several other volatile organic compounds and polycryclic aromatic hydrocarbons. About 4000 diapers intended for use by children between the ages of the zero and three were assessed.
The agency also recommends reinforced monitoring of these chemicals in diapers already on the market and emphasizes the need for a more stringent regulatory framework for these products.
The assessment came at the request of the French Directorates General for Health for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Finance Control. It reportedly marks the first time an assessment has been made of a baby diaper by a health and safety agency.
Following the assessment, ANSES is recommending that manufacturers cease the use of all fragrances, especially those that may cause skin irritations, improve the control of natural raw material sources to reduce contamination and improve the overall manufacturing process for diapers. ANSES is also highlighting the need for more stringent regulatory measures both France and the EU within the framework of the REACH regulations in order to make the manufacturing of baby diapers as safe as possible.
Diaper industry consultant Carlos Richer points out that the increased sophistication and sensitivity of testing equipment can allow them to find toxic substances even on the best organic products from organic farms located far from city centers.
However, in response to the assessment, EDANA, the trade association representing most manufacturers of baby diapers in EMEA, on behalf of these members, has confirmed the safety of the 21 billion diapers placed for sale in the EU each year, saying they meet or exceed all application national and European regulations.
While EDANA agrees the study merits further research and scrutiny, it does not demonstrate that any product has exceeded existing safety thresholds and no regulatory actionhas been recommended. Citing several market studies including one by the Belgian Federal Public Health Service in 2018 and another by the Swiss Federal Office for Food Security and Veterinary Affairs in 2017, the association reports that disposable baby diapers have had a long history of safe use.
Diapers are subject to stringent general safety requirements, included in the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC (GPSD), which aims at ensuring that only safe consumer products are sold in the EU. The safety of chemicals, including their presence in consumer products (defined as articles under REACH) is governed by the European REACH regulation on chemical safety (EC No 1907/2006).
EDANA will continue to examine the ANSES study to further improve product quality. The industry takes its duty of care to ensure product safety very seriously. EDANA and its member companies, in collaboration with Group'hygiènein France, established a taskforce in 2017 to work on the identification of trace impurities, alignment on suitable test methods, and the development of safe and acceptable threshold limits in finished products. Despite achieving values well below regulatory and safety thresholds, industry continues to strive to further lower trace levels of impurities. Thisreport and its recommendations align with the objectives of this taskforce.
Ingredient safety has been an important brand message of many newcomers to the disposable diaper industry in recent years who are developing products said to be free of additives such as fragrance, latex and adhesives to reduce skin irritations and other ailments to babies.