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HEALTH

Study finds high concentration of chemicals at kindergartens

Many German kindergartens have three times the level of dangerous chemicals than an average household, posing serious health risks to children, a study released on Tuesday revealed.

Study finds high concentration of chemicals at kindergartens
Photo: DPA

Of the 60 kindergartens that volunteered for testing, two-thirds showed high levels of phthalates, a type of plasticizer that can cause endocrine system disruption, environmental group Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) said in Berlin.

The chemicals, used in countless plastic products worldwide, can change hormone levels, causing sterility, birth defects, and increasing the risk of breast and testicular cancer, the group said.

Children are particularly vulnerable to phthalates because their organs have not fully developed.

The high concentration in care centres for children seems to arise from their abundant use of plastic products, including PVC flooring, tumbling mats, balance balls and toys.

BUND analyzed dust at each of the facilities, finding that the phthalates DEHP and DINP were most common.

The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) generally discourages the use of phthalates, in particular DEHP, in toys, a practice that has been restricted in the European Union since 1999. The 2008 the United States also banned the use of more than 0.1 percent of certain phthalates in children’s toys.

Phthalates and other plasticizers are mixed with synthetic materials to improve flexibility and durability, and some products contain up to 50 percent of the substance. According to BUND, one million tonnes of phthalates are produces in Western Europe annually.

Used in a variety of products, from cosmetics to building materials, the chemical does not bond to other materials, thus it is released into the environment as plastics break down. While this poses no problem outdoors, where they biodegrade, they accumulate indoors, increasing the risk of exposure.

DAPD/ka

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HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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