Most babies in France wear single-use diapers, which amounts to approximately 4000 diapers over the first three years of a baby’s life.
ANSES was requested by the French Directorates General for Health, for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control, and for Risks Prevention, to assess the infant health risks posed by the chemicals found in diapers. This expert assessment is the first time ever that baby diaper safety risks have been assessed by a health and safety agency anywhere in the world.
Threshold values exceeded for several chemicals found in diapers
The ANSES assessment was based on analyses and tests conducted by the Joint Laboratories Service (SCL) and the French National Consumers Institute (INC) between 2016 and 2018 on various diaper brands representative of the French market. These analyses detected a number of hazardous chemicals in disposable diapers that could migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies’ skin. Some of these chemicals are added intentionally, such as fragrances that could cause skin allergies. Other identified chemicals could come from contaminated raw materials or manufacturing processes (DL-PCBs, dioxins and furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
Based on these data, ANSES conducted a risk assessment in order to determine whether the concentrations of the various identified substances could pose a risk to infant health. This expert assessment showed that under realistic conditions of use threshold values were exceeded for several chemicals. The chemicals in question included fragrances (butylphenyl methylpropional - Lilial®, hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde - Lyral®), certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), PCB-126, and all the DL-PCBs, dioxins and furans.
Considering the possible risks these chemicals may pose, as well as the particularly sensitive population concerned (babies), ANSES recommends either eliminating the chemicals found in single-use baby diapers altogether, or at least reducing them as much as possible.
To do this, ANSES provides a number of recommendations for manufacturers:
- cease the use of all fragrances, especially those that may cause skin sensitising effects;
- improve control of the sources of natural raw materials that could be contaminated before manufacturing;
- improve the manufacturing processes for diapers.
In order to ensure that manufacturers have revised their manufacturing practices in keeping with these recommendations, the Agency also recommends reinforcing the monitoring of chemicals in the disposable diapers already on the market.
Lastly, ANSES highlights the need for more stringent regulatory measures both in France and at EU level,within the framework of the REACh Regulation, in order to make the manufacturing of baby diapers as safe as possible.