SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Medical data of 500,000 French patients leaked online

The medical data of around 500,000 people, taken from 30 medical laboratories in northern France, has been published online after a computer hack.

Medical data of 500,000 French patients leaked online
The medical data of about half a million people was circulating online. Photo: AFP

The stolen files include the names of 491,840 patients, their contact information as well as confidential medical information and even their password, according to French newspaper Libération.

The document, containing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and social security numbers, was initially shared on hacker forums and dark web sites.

For some patients the information includes their blood type, personal doctor or insurance company, and even notes on their health condition and medical treatments.

According to Libération, which investigated the leak, the data was taken from around 30 medical laboratories, mostly located in north-western France, that were all using the same software to collect their patients’ data.

It corresponds to samples taken between 2015 and October 2020.

The database was first identified on a website called Zataz about two weeks ago. It was the subject of commercial negotiations between hackers specialising in exchanging stolen data, the newspaper reported.

The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the administrative regulatory body in charge of data privacy law, launched an investigation on Wednesday, according to AFP.

Several French hospitals have in recent weeks been the subject of cyberattacks and a €1bn package of measures has been announced to address the attacks – some of which are criminal and some seem to be politicial.

If the extent of the leak is confirmed, it would constitute “a particularly grave one”, considering the number of victims and the sensitivity of the information, the secretary general of the CNIL Louis Dutheillet told AFP.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HEALTH

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.

SHOW COMMENTS