Greenpeace provokes row over TBT in nappies

Group calls for immediate withdrawal of stocks after finding traces of chemical in 13 brands

Greenpeace has sparked a new row over the toxic chemical TBT by claiming to have found traces of the substance in babies' nappies (diapers) sold in Germany. Industry groups and an official German health agency have denied any risk to the public, but Austria's environment minister Wilhelm Molterer said on Wednesday that he would seek an EU ban on TBT in nappies as a precautionary measure.

According to Greenpeace Germany, laboratory tests showed levels of TBT or related chemicals in nappies of up to 8.6 parts per billion. Last week, the group released details of three brands it said contained the substances. Today it added a further ten to the list. The group said any presence of a toxic chemical in nappies was "unacceptable". It called for affected brands to be removed from shop shelves and for a complete ban on the use of TBT. A similar scare over TBT erupted in Germany in January, when traces were discovered in Nike football shirts (ENDS Daily 7 January).

In a statement released yesterday, European nappy makers' trade association Edana insisted that its members' products were safe and claimed that TBT levels "allegedly" found by Greenpeace were "several 100-fold" below safety limits set by the World Health Organisation. The association refused to answer further questions, but major nappy manufacturer Procter & Gamble stressed that the contamination levels claimed would pose no risks to health.

The claims and counter-claims leave unanswered how TBT traces could find their way into nappies. One possibility is through adhesive used to seal nappies, according to an Austrian government spokesperson. However, Procter & Gamble, whose Pampers brand product was included in Greenpeace's list, claimed not to use TBT in any way in nappies.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace Germany, tel: +49 40 30 61 80, and 19 May press release; Austrian environment ministry, tel: +43 1 51 522, and press release; Edana, tel: +32 2 734 9310, and press release.

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