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Disposable Diapers Exposed!

What Are Disposable Diaper Manufacturer's Hiding Anyway?

Editorial by T. Washko - Staff Writer for The Diaper Jungle

Disposable Diaper If you visit the web sites of the popular disposable diaper manufacturers you will find little information about what exactly is in a disposable diaper. Instead you read information about why they are not compelled to make this information available to you...the consumer. When requesting MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) on disposable diaper products you may be met with a response such as this:

Dear Customer,

These consumer products are exempt from the MSDS requirement under the Hazard Communication Guidelines of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. More importantly though, all of our paper products are composed of non-hazardous substances.

We go to great lengths to ensure that our products are safe for workers, consumers, and the environment. All of our products have been proven safe through many years of extensive testing and consumer use.

Please be assured that there has never been a need for MSDS for these products.

A Large Disposable Diaper Company

So this inclines us to ask...what is the big secret and what are you trying to hide? Perhaps they know it would be unfavorable for them to tell consumers that they are in fact buying polyethylene and polypropylene plastic with bleached paper pulp, AGM (a gelling substance), petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, elastic, and perfume. Instead they would rather consumers subscribe to the ideas they present on national television...that you are diapering your baby with materials as soft and inviting as cashmere.

Even when contacting them to determine if your child might have sensitivities to the "ingredients" in their diapering products, you will not get any closer to the truth. Instead, they tell you that this information is proprietary due to the prevalence of diapering spies out there and that if you want further information about the contents you must submit a letter from your doctor explaining what allergies or product sensitivities your child might have and they will either confirm or deny. The extent of the security that exists around the contents of a diapering product is not only baffling but alarming. Millions of our children adorn these products for anywhere from 1-4 years and yet parents are not permitted to know what is in them. Even more alarming is the fact that many parents blindly trust these companies to make products that are safe for their children, never questioning the content of a diaper or their health and environmental impacts.

Did you know that scientific studies have linked disposable diapers and their harsh perfumes and toxic substances to the increase of asthma in society today? Laboratory rats exposed to disposable diapers straight out of the package have suffered increased eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as bronchial constriction similar to that of an asthma attack. These findings appear in a scientific report concluded by Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson of Anderson Laboratories, Inc. in Vermont. The report went on to say that, "Chemical analysis of the emissions revealed several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity. The results demonstrate that some types of disposable diapers emit mixtures of chemicals that are toxic to the respiratory tract. Disposable diapers should be considered as one of the factors that might cause or exacerbate asthmatic conditions."*

Not only are these large disposable diaper manufacturers producing products laden with chemicals to diaper our children with, they are polluting the earth our children will inherit. In one U.S. town, one such company is responsible for discharging approximately 50 million gallons/day of wastewater into a nearby river.** The chemicals being dumped into this river have made their way into the well water of the surrounding residents and have caused mutations among the fish that live in it. The water is so dark and murky that oxygen and sunlight cannot penetrate it and the smell emanating from it is noxious. Residents have been fighting for close to ten years now to stop this company from polluting their natural resources, all to no avail. Not only do the "safe" ingredients used in these diapering products have the potential to cause asthma-like conditions in our children they may also be polluting our drinking water and mutating our wildlife in areas where they are manufactured.

So, it would seem that when a diaper consumer is prohibited from knowing the full contents of the diaper they are using on their child, the manufacturing company has a great deal to hide. How many parents would buy disposable diapers if you were to read something like this on the company web site or diaper packaging:

Dear Customer,

Our diapers are made from a variety of non-child friendly products including bleached paper pulp, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, sodium polyacralate, and perfumes. Some or all of these ingredients may cause adverse reactions to the wearer, including reduced respiratory function, so please exercise appropriate caution when using our product.

Our products are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly and they may contribute greatly to environmental pollution. Although recycling disposable diapers is a possibility, we do not, at this time, use any of these available methods as the monetary costs are too great. Thank you kindly for using our products anyway.

A Large Disposable Diaper Company

Now the question is....if upon reading something like that, would parents still choose perceived convenience and use disposable diapers anyway? We can only hope that cloth diapers would at least merit a consideration for their qualities of superior comfort and safety.


* Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions, Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999

**Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute, Florida State University

***Thirsties Cloth Diapers