France warns of toxic substances found in 23 types of babies’ nappies

The French government has ordered manufacturers to remove potentially toxic substances that have been found in babies’ nappies but has not ordered a recall of the products.

France warns of toxic substances found in 23 types of babies' nappies
Photo: AFP

The demand came after the French environment agency ANSES said it had found toxic substances, including the widely-used weed-killer glyphosate and butylphenyl methylpropional which is used in beauty products, in nappies which it had examined.

“Following studies carried out on nappies and how they are used, the watchdog has found evidence of several chemical substances at dangerously high levels,” the agency said.

But ANSES said however that it found “no epidemiological data that shows any link between effects on health and the wearing of nappies” and did not call for the products to be removed from supermarket shelves.

But the agency’s managing director Gérard Lasfargues said that “risk cannot be excluded… as we observed a breach of the safety threshold for a certain number of substances.”

The government said producers of disposable nappies, which 95 percent of all babies in France wear, and shops must make sure the substances are removed from nappies.

“We call on manufacturers and retailers to take measures within the next 15 days to eliminate these substances from babies' nappies,” said a joint statement from the health, environment and finance ministries.

The statement also called on parents to inform themselves about the products used in the nappies.

French babies go through between 3,800 et 4,800 nappies before they are toilet-trained, according to ANSES.

Benjamin Binot, the managing director of Procter et Gamble France, which produces Pampers nappies, told RTL radio that “our nappies are safe.”

But the company on Wednesday set up a helpline for worried parents who want to find out more about what’s in the nappies they buy: 0 800 945 130.

In a report published in January 2017, the magazine 60 Million Consumers (60 Millions de Consommateurs) said its testers had detected potential carcinogenics in ten different brands of nappies out of the 12 it tested.  

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.