A study by environment advocacy group, Toxics Link, has found significant presence of pthalates, an inorganic chemical, in baby diapers. There is research to suggest that pthalates, when in contact with skin, may impede the regulation of hormones and is, therefore, banned in the use of cosmetic products, toys in India as well as in Europe, South Korea and China. However there are no permissible limits or regulatory requirements on the use of the product in diapers.
The study appears as a research report and not a peer-reviewed study in a scientific journal.
Pthalates are a family of chemicals used to improve the plasticity of several consumer products, including diapers. In the latter, they are responsible for making it more durable and flexible.
“The study found high levels of phthalates ranging from 2.36ppm to 302.25ppm. The DEHP is the most toxic phthalate and is restricted or banned in several children products but was found between 2.36ppm [parts per million] to 264.94 ppm in the tested samples,” said Alka Dubey, Programme Coordinator at Toxics Link in a statement.
Samples randomly collected
For the study, 20 diaper samples were randomly collected from local markets and chemist shops in Delhi and some were purchased from commonly used e-commerce platforms as well. All the samples were analysed in an NABL-accredited laboratory (Spectro Analytical Lab. Ltd. Okhla, New Delhi).
India has also set the standards for five common phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DIDP, DNOP & DINP) in various children’s products. “However, there is no such regulation in place for baby diapers in our country” said Piyush Mohapatra, Senior Programme Coordinator at Toxics Link.
Independent studies have shown the presence of pthalates in the skin and urine of infants from exposure to baby shampoos, baby lotions and powders but there no specific studies that link pthalates having made their way into babies' bodies through the use of diapers, according to background note on pthalates and exposure levels from the United States’ Food and Drug Administration.
However manufacturers, both in India as well as abroad, aren’t required to list the presence of pthalates on the labels of their products. In the Toxics Links study, only one manufacturer disclosed the presence of the chemical.
They may also be contributing to environmental degradation. Because disposable diapers frequently reach landfills, these chemical leach into the soil and may pollute groundwater.