Are Your Disposable Diapers Safe?

For one reason or another, modern cloth diapers just don’t fit your lifestyle. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Ninety percent of parents rely on disposable diapers to cover their baby’s bum. Disposables are super convenient . . . easy on, easy off, dump the whole poopy mess, and you’re good to go. With everything else you’ve got going on, that’s reason enough to go disposable. But are they safe?

Now hang on a second! Before you get any notions in your head that this article is going to try to convince you to go cloth, let’s set things straight. Cloth is not for everyone. It’s a commitment and an investment. Your lifestyle requires disposables? By all means, we understand.

But if you’re reading this, you’re probably concerned about what’s really inside those diapers that make daily contact with your baby’s skin. Well, here’s the lowdown on the safety of your disposable’s materials . . . and a few things to look out for when making your diaper purchases.

Disclosure of Materials: Protecting You or the Brand?

First thing’s first. Unfortunately, you will never really know what your diapers are made of because manufacturers like Huggies and Pampers, and even green disposables, won’t tell you the whole story. And they don’t have to. They’re protected under the law from revealing trade secrets. So the chemicals used to print your diapers in stylish patterns or to make them smell like a meadow full of fresh flowers do not need to be disclosed to you as a consumer. And if you grew up with the red food dye scare or even the more recent BPA one (did you even know to look out for BPA-free products ten years ago??) that can be pretty disconcerting.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it other than to petition and lobby but your children will be long out of diapers before there’s any change in the disclosure of materials laws. Still, it’s worth a shot. Manufacturers have responded to demands to make diapers more environmentally safe and healthy in the past.

Super Absorbent Polymers: Harmful to Baby?

Ever wonder how those diapers manage to absorb SO MUCH pee? It’s all thanks to Super Absorbent Polymers (SAP). Perhaps you’ve gone a few hours too long on a diaper change one day, and you’ve encountered some strange looking gel-like gloops oozing out of that over-full diaper. That’s SAP – a petroleum-based plastic.

Pretty much all disposables use SAP, even green disposable diapers. Can’t find it listed on your list of materials? It can take on different names like absorbent gel material (AGM), hydrogel, polyacrylate absorbents, and sodium polyacrylate.

Although SAP is a petroleum-based product, the good news is that, to date, there is no evidence to prove that it is in any way harmful or toxic to humans.

Dioxins: Why You Should Always Get Chlorine-Free

Ever since the shift to disposables way back in the 1950s, consumers and manufacturers have had the inclination to want disposables to come in crisp cotton whites. And those whites have only gotten whiter.

Typically, manufacturers have relied on chlorine to get those diapers super white and clean looking. The problem is that the bleaching process gives off traces of dioxins – known toxic chemicals.

So, it’s just trace chemicals, right? Not too much to concern yourself about. Well, dioxins are known to cause both reproductive and developmental problems. They damage the immune system and affect the body’s hormones. The EPA has officially declared dioxins “a likely human carcinogen.” Worst of all, these toxins tend to linger a long, long time both in the environment and in your baby!! And they can be inhaled, ingested, and absorbed through the skin!

If you want to give your baby a healthier start in life, just look out for chlorine-free disposables. There are a lot of options out there.

Phthalates: Leaching Toxins?

You may have noticed that a lot of baby products are now proudly boasting that they are Phthalate-free. This is a chemical that’s often found in plastics for a softening effect to increase their flexibility and durability. They might be in your baby’s bottles, toys, shampoo, lotions, and even their diapers.

So what’s the problem? They leach. Products that contain Phthalates put your child in contact with plasticizers that can be toxic to their hormonal and reproductive systems. And unfortunately, diaper manufacturers are not required to disclose the use of this chemical. So unless they explicitly say Phthalate-free, chances are it’s in there.

All the Pretty Stuff: Chemical Dyes and Fragrances

First off, remember that bit of protection under trade secrets legislation? That exempts manufacturers from revealing the details of what’s in their fragrances and dyes. While ethical companies might truly be withholding safe ingredients that really are trade secrets, other companies could hide potentially toxic material under the broad banner of fragrance.

Babies are rapidly developing in so many ways and chemical irritants are completely unnecessary in a product that’s in constant daily contact with your baby for a number of years. The same goes for dyes.

Is a bit of perfume and colored motifs really worth the potential risks to your baby’s respiratory or immune systems? Plus, they can cause rashes, allergies, and other health problems. Err on the side of caution and just choose fragrance-free, dye-free products instead. After all, it’s all about your baby’s health. Keep the stylish wear where it’s actually going to be seen!

For complete peace of mind, it's best to use cloth diapers whenever possible. Of course, that may not be a practical solution for everyone. And while no disposable diaper is perfect (since unknown chemicals can get thrown in under the general banner of "fragrance"), these brands provide decent performance that is safer for your baby:

Which disposable diaper are you using, and have you researched its materials?

Tags : baby   health   safety   baby gear   diapering   

Afshin Behnia
I'd be nice if you could update the article to include a list of brands that meet the criteria.