Toxic substances in nappies: the EU loses the possibility to ban them and does not protect babies and children from possible risks

The EU has passed the deadlines to respond to the request by France (and several European NGOs) to ban certain toxic substances in disposable nappies. A missed opportunity to protect the health of the little ones

We have talked to you several times about tests carried out on diapers for babies and children, which in some cases have highlighted the presence of toxic substances that are potentially dangerous for the little ones, exposed daily and often for long periods.

This issue is particularly “hot” in France, and it was from this country that the request to regulate in a more stringent way, or rather to ban completely, the presence of some of these substances in diapers. However, the EU seems to have lost the opportunity to protect the safety of young children.

Condemning the case are 21 European NGOs, including the European Environment Agency (EEB) and Heal, which have joined France’s appeal with the aim of “convincing” Europe to severely restrict the use of certain substances, by establishing new rules for manufacturers. But the time to present a proposal on the matter is now over, and there are many disappointments.

In practice, diapers will still contain potentially dangerous chemicals in some cases, but the complaint from associations such as Eeb is very serious and the estimates are worrying. According to the associations’ data, 90% of European children have been exposed to dangerous chemicals in recent years through diapers, increasing the risk of developing “potentially very serious diseases” over time.

As we said, the problem is very much felt in France, where Anses analyzed the best-known and best-selling diapers in the country both in 2019 and 2020 and found in the first test 38 chemicals “at very serious risk”, including formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon of different species and other potentially carcinogenic ingredients and allergens. In 2020, the situation had fortunately improved a lot, but the formaldehyde it was still found in some diaper brands and – in the absence of a “strong” law – there is nothing to prohibit manufacturers, once attention is focused on the problem, from re-introducing other potentially dangerous substances.

Therefore, the appeal to the EU to regulate the presence of toxic chemicals in diapers more strictly, which unfortunately was not heard, and it naturally initially caused outrage among those who fought to achieve a completely different result, which now looks faded.

In fact, the EU has let the deadlines expire. As you can read on Eeb’s website:

The European Chemicals Agency acknowledges potential risks, said chemicals should not be present, but says the French have not sufficiently demonstrated the risk to children. This attitude is flawed, NGOs say. Yesterday, the European Commission missed a legal deadline to respond to the French proposal, blocking consumer protection for months or years.

Eeb’s Deputy Director of Chemicals, Dolores Romano, said:

Day after day, week after week, incredibly sensitive babies and children can be exposed to some of the most toxic substances on the planet. Amazingly, this situation is completely legal. French pressure has forced manufacturers to clean up the supply chain, proving that it is entirely possible. But as soon as the inspectors are gone, the problem can arise again. Therefore, a law is needed. The Commission recently made a commitment to protect children from chemical hazards. He should take this diaper threat seriously, stop wasting time and get rid of toxic diapers.

On their side are several MEPs such as Maria Arena, member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, who said:

Every day, parents risk exposing their newborns to toxic chemicals just by changing diapers. It shouldn’t be up to parents to know if the diapers they use might be toxic or not. The harmful effects of these substances are well known, they simply should not be allowed in any baby product. The EU must step up and ban these substances in diapers and ensure a toxic-free environment for all.

While Tilly Metz, from the same EU Parliamentary Commission, claims that:

There is an accumulation of evidence documenting how chemicals affect children’s development. Why is the EU so slow and reluctant to act to protect them? I urge the Commission to remedy this problem as soon as possible and set high EU standards for healthier disposable nappies.

We hope that associations, citizens and the “most sensitive” members of the Commission will continue the “pressure” on Europe, and we will achieve the result as soon as possible that we all hope to better protect the little ones.

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Source: Eeb

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