Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The WHY (cont): Chemicals

As I started looking into cloth diapering, I was surprised to learn that there may, in fact, be some health benefits for my baby by cloth diapering. I'd never thought before about what comprised a disposable diaper and how they made them so absorbent.

I have read several articles where people have contacted a disposable diaper company to find out the ingredients only to be put-off and told that nothing hazardous is included (I have not attempted this myself, so I can only go by what I've read).

This is kind of a summary of what I discovered in my research - I tried to leave out stuff that was inconsistent from article to article and include information that seemed to be verifiable or at least consistent. I also tried to include the links to most of the sources I found most helpful in case you want to start your own research.

We DO know that diapers may include:

SODIUM POLYACRYLATE - this is apparently added to the diaper in powder form and and makes it super-absorbent. It turns into a gel-like substance when wet. I have found this clinging to my son's private parts when the diaper was soaking wet - disgusting!
  • It was banned from tampons in 1985 because of its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • It can stick to baby's genitals causing irritation
  • It not only wicks away urine, but also the infants natural skin oils
More reading on sodium polyacrylate:
E-How health: Precautions with Sodium Polyacrylate

DIOXIN - apparently disposable diapers contain traces of this chemical, which is a by-product of the paper bleaching process or chlorine.
I also read that it accumulates in the body over our lifetime - through the air we breathe, water we drink, etc. AND I'm sure through the diapers we put on our babies bottoms for 2-3 years of their lives!
Here is a link to what the EPA says about Dioxins

Other interesting info I read about Dioxin:
  • It is a carcinogenic
  • It is banned in most countries, but not the United States

"Dioxins are responsible for a range of reproductive and developmental problems, damaging the immune system, along with causing major hormonal imbalances and cancer. Many infants are now exposed to dioxins 24 hours a day, and yet society wonders why girls are beginning puberty younger than ever, and hormonal disorders are becoming increasingly common in children." (Source: The Health Wyze Report)
Knickernappies blog - What's the Deal with Dioxin?

TRIBUTYL TIN (TBT) - an environmental pollutant. From what I could read, not all disposable diapers necessarily contain this toxic chemical. According to the EPA it seems this chemical has been found to be very harmful to aquatic organisms. 

  • could cause sterility in boys 
"Many disposable diapers contain a chemical called tributyl-tin (TBT). According to the EPA, this toxic pollutant is extremely harmful to aquatic (water) life and causes endocrine (hormonal) disruptions in aquatic organisms. TBT is a polluting chemical that does not degrade but remains in the environment and in our food chain. TBT is also an ingredient used in biocides to kill infecting organisms. Additionally, according to research published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, tributyl-tin can trigger genes that promote the growth of fat cells, causing obesity in humans." (Source:
NickiDiapers - Diapers Linked with Male Infertility
In addition to these chemicals, many disposable diapers contain dyes and fragrances among other things.
As one mom on a cloth diapering message board I used to read said:
"If I wouldn't put it on my lady parts, why would I put it on my baby girls?"
Granted, I don't use my cloth diapers full-time, but I find that I use them more and more, not less. The less exposure my son can have to chemicals - harmless or not - the better off he is. And the thought of all those chemicals on his sensitive parts just makes me cringe! 

AND for those who have boys:
"In that article, German researchers found that the scrotal skin temperatures of baby boys were significantly higher when they wore disposable diapers than when they wore cloth. While the scientists called for more research, their article suggested that prolonged use of disposable diapers as infants was an "important factor" contributing to the decline of sperm production among adult males. Proctor & Gamble conducted its own study and also found that scrotal skin temperatures increased for boys in disposable diapers, although not to the degree that the German scientists showed, Kuta said." (source)

What to take away from all this overload of information??

We DON'T KNOW what's in our baby's diapers.
We can control so little about disposables. 
The above chemicals MAY or MAY NOT be in our baby's disposable diapers, but we don't know. Or there could be other stuff we don't know about yet. 
It is a lot easier to control what's in cloth diapers.

Other Helpful Resources: The Diaper Drama
Cloth Diapers Exposed @
Real Diaper Association
The Poop on Eco-Friendly Diapers
I'd love to hear my readers thoughts or opinions on this subject! Or other interesting links.

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