Four Harmful Things to Avoid With Disposable Diapers

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So I’m planning on visiting my family in California next month, and my mom is busy making preparations for Tessa and I to visit (poor hubby has to work). I was giving her a list of things to buy so I don’t have to pack as much, and when telling her which diapers to get, I thought – hey! Blog post! Nothing like chattering into a void to help you formulate and better articulate your thoughts and research…

When it comes to diaper selection, I must first clarify that I consider myself to be only a semi-crunchy mom in that my concern is NOT primarily for the environment. (Sorry hippies.) I mean, I will, when given a feasible option, choose products that are nicer to the planet. I firmly believe that God has charged us to be good stewards of the Earth. But I also firmly believe that my little girl comes first. If “saving the planet” breaks the bank or strains my family financially, Earth can go whining to Michael Moore.

My one and only concern is my daughter and reducing her exposure to unnecessary chemicals and toxins.

Cloth diapers, which reign supreme in the crunchy mom circles, are not a realistic option for us. We don’t have a washer and dryer and only do laundry every other week when I have the car to run errands. Frequent trips to the Laundromat, with me dropping husband off at work to have the car (an hour drive there and back) would break our budget at this point. Additionally, our apartment complex has a strict “no hanging clothes out to dry on your balcony or patio” rule that they expect us to adhere to, or face a fine. (Really, it’s like Arcadia from X-Files around here.) And besides those facts, neither Jonathan nor I are overly interested in hand washing poo on our down time.

So with cloth diapers out, when approaching the world of disposable diapers, I’ve discovered that there are four major concerns about what will be placed on my baby’s skin every day for the next 3-5 years. And they are as follows:

Perfumes and “Mystery Ingredients”

Perfume fragrances are sometimes used in disposable diapers, under the assumption that parents would prefer a “spring rain” scented turd in lieu of simply changing a smelly diaper. The scents found in many diapers are strong and chemical-laden, harboring unnecessary irritants with potential to cause such health issues ranging from diaper rash to respiratory symptoms to allergies or worse.

As I talked about in a previous blog post, infants skin is unbelievably sensitive to product. Babies skin is ten times thinner than adult skin and doesn’t have a natural acid mantle yet, which in adults has a pH value of 5.5. The acid mantle protects the skin from irritants, allergens, pathogens, and from drying out. Babies do not have this protection. Additionally, their ratio of skin surface area to body volume is significantly larger than in adults, so their skin soaks up even minute amounts of chemicals, and it directly effects their fragile developing systems.

My biggest concern with perfumes in disposable diapers (and any product I put on my baby) is the “Mystery Ingredients” that get slipped in. As reported in the Huffington Post and elsewhere: “…due to the ‘trade secret’ status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.”

As a result, a manufacturer can legally bury dozens of potentially toxic chemicals under a “Fragrance” ingredient listing. (This is how Johnson & Johnson has gotten away throwing in downright toxic ingredients for so long.) Anything with “Fragrance” in it’s ingredient list will NOT be going on Tessa’s skin.

Chlorine Bleach and Dioxins

The process of chlorine bleaching diapers leaves tons of chemicals in the fibers of disposable diapers.  These chemical toxins are called “dioxins.” Based on animal studies, dioxins are believed to have the ability to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified dioxins as a “likely human carcinogen.” You can read all about dioxin from the World Health Organization here.

Dyes and Skin Irritants

Dyes are usually added to diapers to color them. (Duh.) This is really the lesser of all the disposable diaper evils, but still one that I choose to avoid.

The biggest downside to dyes is that they are known to cause skin and diaper rashes and have provoked allergic reactions in some babies. In a study published in Pediatrics in 2005, switching to dye-free diapers was shown to eliminate skin rashes which occurred in areas exposed to colored portions of diapers.

I’m not anti-dye (after all, the fabric on your babies onesie is likely dyed) but when it comes to prolonged exposure on my babies genitals, why not go with a dye-free version? I don’t care if a diaper is colorful and pretty, it’s just gonna get pooped on.

Phthalates and Harmful Chemicals

Phthalates are mainly plasticizers, added to products to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In some disposable diapers, phthalates may be used as part of the process to create a waterproof outer or inner liner. The problem with phthalates is that they are not tightly chemically-bonded to the plastic, and therefore they continuously release through leaching into liquids.

Phthalates have been a concern in the medical community for its use in bottled water for some time now due to potential toxic effects to endocrine and reproductive systems – to which infants are particularly vulnerable. (This is why phthalates are a main concern with baby bottles and why I will soon be switching to glass bottles for Tessa.)

Not all diapers use phthalates, but here’s the kicker: US law does not currently require disclosure of phthalates. The only way to know that diapers are phthalate-free is if the manufacturer declares that they are.

So the good news is, there ARE natural diapers out there that are free from these four poopy ingredients listed! (If there weren’t I’d be switching to cloth in a heartbeat.) There are a number of manufacturers who offer complete transparency in their diaper ingredients, though not many. You’d be surprised how many companies do NOT practice full disclosure with their ingredients – the biggest brands guilty of this are Huggies and Pampers.

I personally use Earth’s Best brand disposable diapers on Tessa, as it meets all my personal disposable diaper requirements and then some – it’s also environmentally friendly – and it does not break the bank. They are priced only slightly more than the toxic mystery ingredient leading brands. A really awesome source for side by side comparisons of natural disposable diaper brands is available over at Baby Lab in their Battle for the Best Disposable Diapers.

Do you use disposable diapers or cloth? And if so, which ones and why? ^_^

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Gingi Freeman
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Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

12 thoughts on “Four Harmful Things to Avoid With Disposable Diapers

  • 25 November, 2013 at 4:02 pm
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    We had a diaper service for our first 3 children until we purchased a home with a washer and dryer…then I washed for #3-#7…even used baby wash cloths instead of store bought baby wipes…

    Reply
    • 25 November, 2013 at 4:16 pm
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      Yeah, we make our own baby wipes! The same chemicals found in some diapers are found in baby wipes…

      Reply
  • 25 November, 2013 at 5:24 pm
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    Kawaii, GlowBug, and GoGreens for cloth here. Kawaii at night because of the Velcro aka hook in loop closure. The rest because of awesome features and prints for pocket OS diapes. We wash and dry them at home. Once warm weather returns, drying outside will be an option again. We tried disposables briefly in her and she dislikes them.

    Reply
    • 25 November, 2013 at 5:54 pm
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      I really wish I had the desire or ability to do cloth! Lol… It would save so much money. Sigh. My aversion to poo is worth the disposal diaper cost though. But I still envy you cloth diapering mommas!

      Reply
      • 25 November, 2013 at 8:02 pm
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        I was intimidated by it with our first two. We did it more to save cash than anything. We finally realized that we were tossing money away. EBF poo is water soluble and requires zero rinsing before washing. We hope to wait on solids for another 9mo and that is when poo gains the real ick factor. Even so, we have a diaper sprayer on the toilet.

        Reply
        • 22 October, 2014 at 3:11 am
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          I was thinking of going cloth, and now Tessa is in the icky people textured poo poos, hahaha… how is life my friend? I miss hearing from you!

          Reply
  • 29 November, 2013 at 9:53 am
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    “Earth can go whining to Michael Moore.”
    That is an awesome line there girl!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • 6 February, 2014 at 10:11 am
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    I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me, 
    and I am completely satisfied with your website. 
    All comments and articles are very useful and very good.
    Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in.
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    Reply
    • 6 February, 2014 at 3:17 pm
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      Thank you! I really do appreciate the comment!

      Reply
  • 14 September, 2014 at 6:06 am
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    Hi there…I just discovered your awesome blog. Thanks for all the info so far!
    We cloth diaper for health, environmental, and financial reasons. Before our daughter was born, we bought a set of Happy Flute diapers (set of 10 with 20 inserts) from Ebay once a month for 4 months ($49.99/set); therefore, we have 40 diapers (plus some extras my family bought me…they are Gerber brand but we do not really use them). We wash/dry them daily or every other day depending on how many there are. Like another poster said, breastfeeding makes it where you don’t have to pre-rinse poop, but we have a diaper sprayer for the future.
    Have you considered a diaper service since your family is unable to do your own cloth diapers?

    Reply
    • 22 October, 2014 at 3:12 am
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      Thanks for the info, but we’re stuck on disposables at the moment! 😉

      Reply

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