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? ^_^