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Glyphosate and Other Toxic Chemicals Detected in French Diapers

A pair of disposable diapers photographed in a studio in Paris. JOEL SAGET / AFP / Getty Images

In a study said to be the first of its kind worldwide, French health agency Anses has found potentially dangerous chemicals in disposable diapers. The substances they discovered include glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, BBC News reported.

Anses said it "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 the chemicals were found at levels above safety limits while others, like glyphosate, were found at lower levels.


The report, published Wednesday, was based on tests of 23 samples of diapers on sale in France between 2016 and 2018, including brands billed as "ecological," The Guardian reported. The agency did not name specific brands, but said the tests were representative of the market as a whole. Some French diaper brands are also sold in other countries, BBC News pointed out.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn, Environment Minister Francois de Rugy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire have called on French diaper makers and sellers to develop a plan to remove these substances within 15 days.

"Along with Bruno Le Maire and Francois de Rugy, we are calling on the companies to take all necessary measures to make sure nappies are as safe as possible," Buzyn wrote on Twitter, Reuters reported. "There is no immediate, serious risk to the health of children, but it is paramount to take precautions."

Companies will be allowed a delay of six months in changing procedures to eliminate the chemicals, BBC News reported.

The study found 60 chemicals in all, some of which have been banned in the EU for more than 15 years, The Guardian reported. Anses also said that some exceeded limits for safe exposure based on a "realistic" use estimate of 4,000 diapers for a child during their first three years of life.

In addition to glyphosate, The Guardian, BBC News and Reuters reported that other chemicals were found including:

  • Substances found in cigarette or diesel smoke
  • Perfumes Lilial and Lyral
  • Aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans
  • Butylphenyl methylpropional used in beauty products

Some chemicals, such as perfumes, were added intentionally.

Two major diaper companies, Pampers and Joone, responded defensively to the report.

"Our nappies are safe and always have been," Pampers said, The Guardian reported. Pampers said it had already put in place all of the safety measures recommended by the report.

Joone President Carole Juge-Llewellyn called the report "alarmist."

However, Anses concluded that, while there were no epidemiological studies yet available on the health risks posed by contaminated diapers, they could not say they were safe.

"It is not possible to exclude a health risk related to the wearing of disposable nappies," the report said.

Glyphosate is considered controversial after the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer said it was "probably carcinogenic" in 2015. While other agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have ruled otherwise, there is some concern about Monsanto's involvement with studies claiming glyphosate is safe. A report released earlier this month found that an EU license extension for glyphosate was based on a risk assessment that plagiarized from studies Monsanto helped write.

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