Toxins in babies’ diapers: NGOs call on EU Commission to act

WECF supports the initiative by NGOs – including HEAL, EEB, ZeroWaste and ClientEarth – to call the European Commission to act on the proposal to ban certain chemicals from children’s diapers

Hazardous chemicals in a widely used baby product

In December 2020, the French national authorities on food, environment, and work safety (ANSES) made a proposal to ban certain chemicals from children’s diapers. The chemicals concerned by the restriction are formaldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Formaldehydes and PAHs are identified cancerogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic chemicals (identified as such by EU legislation on packaging & labelling [CLP]). Furthermore dioxines, furans and PCBs are not only persistent organic pollutants (POP) but also have endocrine disruptors. To sum it up, these chemicals should not be in products for infants! Because of the bleaching process used for the fluff of diapers – mainly imported from the US (who do not have regulations on the matter),- these hazardous substances can be found in diapers. When in contact with urine, these hazardous substances can get into contact with the skin of the babies.

ECHA’s opinion disregards the precautionary principle

However, the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Socio-Economic Committee (SEAC) within the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have positioned themselves as against this restriction.

While ECHA’s committees recognise the harmful effects of these chemicals, independent scientific data have not been taken into account. The decisions were based on studies by the industry, which do not take into account the special use of diapers, namely the continuous wearing on bare skin of infants and young children.

The Commission needs to act

The NGOs HEAL, EEB, ZeroWaste & ClientEarth have decided to call on the European Commission to take action on the ban proposal. As long as it is not demonstrated that the risks associated with exposures are zero, the presence of toxic substances should also be zero. Moreover, other processes obviously exist that do not integrate these chemicals. Toxic free consumers products, especially for children, are in line with the EU Commission’s “Sustainable chemical’s strategy”. WECF supports this initiative. Only a strict restriction on these chemicals can protect the health & the environment from these hazards.