Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How Dirty Are Those Diapers?

(updated :  October 2016) 

As moms we know that a dirty diapers is no fun.  Most babies quickly let us know when they need a clean diaper, but did you know that the new ' clean' diaper you were placing on your munchkin actually has a handful of chemicals never tested before for safety on babies?

Todays diapers are far from the diapers we grew up using. New and improved? Perhaps.... But at what cost?

Yes, it is true, just about every mainstream diaper brand we have grown up hearing about and trusting (Huggies, Pampers, Luvs etc)  now uses a handfull of potentially toxic chemicals in their ' leak guard' formulas. Unfortunetley for parents, diaper companies need not disclose the ingredients they use in their diapers... an unfortunate reality, considering that the average baby goes through 5,000 - 8000 diapers before being fully toilet trained! That is a whole lotta diapers and a whole lot of potential exposure to an unknown list of chemicals you are exposing your infant to 24 hours a day. 

The most common chemicals of concern found in conventional diapers ( Huggies, Luvs, Pampers etc)  are:

  • Chlorine 
As explained in the the Healthy Child Healthy World website " most disposable conventional diapers are bleached with chlorine , which produces dioxines, one of which is the most toxic of all cancer causing chemicals" ... The main problem? Dioxins accumulate in the body throughout our lifetime and can affect our immune system, and cause reproductive and hormonal imbalances. 

In 1999 a study was published in the Archives of Environmental Health that found mice exposed to VOC ( short for ' volatile organic compunds' which are gases given off by chemicals some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects) emitted by conventional disposable diapers had asthma-like reactions. The conclusion of the study was that "Disposable diapers should be considered as one of the factors that might cause or exacerbate asthmatic conditions."

The main chemical responsable for this? Mostly chlorine, however over 13 chemicals were found to be in the disposable diapers studied including toluene and ethylbenzene and xylene, all endocrine disruptors. obviously baby lungs are larger than mice lungs, however babies are still developing and quite suseptical to the chlorine being emitted by conventional diapers.

  • Sodium Polyacrylate 
Sodium Polyacrylate is an absorbent gel that is responsible for absorbing moisture inside the diaper ( it has the ability to absorb 1,000 times its weight in water!) Sodium polyacrylate is a skin irritant.  A couple of years ago Procter and Gamble faced several large lawsuits from parents which claimed that their Pampers Dry Max technology was causing severe diaper rashes and burns in infants.   The case was settled (P&G paid the families and covered legal expenses) but the suspected culprit was Sodium Polyacrylate in the Dry Max formula.

  • Fragrance 
A new trend in disposable diapers is adding fragrance to mask odors ( and, really, we can still smell the poop anyway) and lotions to help sooth baby's skin. Open any conventional diaper case and you can appreciate the smell. Products that have fragrance have phthalates ( the chemical used to bind the fragrance to the product) a known endocrine system (hormones) disruptor associated to developmental and fertility problems. 

  • Solutions 

Yes, the safest alternative is probably clothes diapers at home (not to be mistaken with a clothes diaper service which use huge amounts of chlorine bleach when cleaning their diapers).  Now a days they are quite user friendly (some have disposable inserts) and down right cute however if clothes diapers are just not your thing, there are some good (and cute!) options.

The next best thing? 
Purchase unbleached ( chlorine free) dye-free disposable diapers. Many of these still contain Sodium Polyacrylate but at least they do not have the added chlorine or fragrance. 

 Some brands that offer these solutions: 

Personally, of these, I have tried Seventh Generation and Honest Co diapers ( daily use, overnights and training pants) and I am a big fan. Seventh Generation have worked well for me for day use, but overall, Honest Co diapers are the ones that have worked the best.   Their new overnight diapers stand up to Huggies and Pamper Brands overnights- which is huge because, until they were launched last year, I still used Huggies for overnight, otherwise my son would wake up wet.  I love the fact that Honest Co and all the ones mentioned above are effective and they don't come with the strong smell of the Pampers and Huggies, which really bothered me.  Also they are all available online in Amazon, as well in many major retailers around the country.  Both Seventh generation and Honest CO have cute designs too- an added perk!

If I had a third child I would probably give clothes diapers a chance.  They have come a long way and seem much easier and convenient to use than a couple of years back....  some company's to try out if you are interested:


  1. Have used Nature Babycare with both kids and very happy with them! there has been a stage where they weren't enough for a night (when they had a large bottle before bedtime), but neither were the more commercial brands...

    1. Thanks so much for your input!

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  3. I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me, 
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    turn you are sharing with each one!….

  4. You might want to try this rather than a regular plunger. It's probably the same principle as drilling holes in the plunger, but it should help the water move through the cloth better. bambo luiers