Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cloth diapers and the environment

I mentioned that our first reason for switching to cloth diapers was honestly about cost.  It just didn't make sense to me to keep "throwing" that money away.  Not as far as cloth diapers and washing machines have come.  We have been cloth diapering for almost 4 months now.  I have probably already broken even with the amount I would have spent on disposable diapers.  The second reason we switched was for environmental or health reasons.

Pampers has recently made a product change to "dry max."  Their diapers are supposed to be even thinner and more absorbant.  Let me tell you, I had to turn my nose the first time I opened a package of their new diapers.  They smelled worse than ever.  Coincidentally, this was right about the time we were talking about cloth diapers.  I started hearing more and more about the chemicals in disposable diapers.  I also heard many stories about the serious diaper burns babies were experiencing from the Pampers dry max.

Here are some of the things I've learned:
Scientific studies have linked disposable diapers and their harsh perfumes and toxic substances to increasing asthma rates.  Children with respiratory disorders can even have problems from the emissions of disposable diapers...the fumes.

There were also two studies (one by Proctor & Gamble) that found that scrotal temperature was higher in disposable diapers.  Potential sperm counts could be affected in boys.

One of the chemicals used in the disposable diaper process is dioxin.  Dioxin has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, skin diseases, and genetic damage.  It is a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers. Dioxin is listed by the EPA as the most toxic of cancer related chemicals.  It is banned in many countries.

Disposable diapers also contain Tributyl-tin, which is a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.

Disposable diapers also contain sodium polyacrylate. This is the gel-like, absorbant crystal material that you may have seen. Sodium polyacrylate is the same substance that was removed from tampons because of its link to toxic shock syndrome.  Diapers get thinner and thinner.  They don't magically absorb more and more liquid.  These chemicals do the absorbing.

Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest waste product in landfillls, behind newspaper and beverage products.  They don't exactly decompose.

Enough studies have shown that the disposable diaper manufacturing process actually uses more water than washing cloth diapers.  The process also uses tons of petroleum and chlorine and wood pulp.

Studies go round and round about cloth vs. disposable.  There will never be a study be even the largest cloth diaper company that can stand up to a company like Proctor & Gamble.  However, I've read enough, smelled enough, seen enough, and felt enough to know the difference.  I much prefer the smell of well, nothing to the smell of plastic and chemicals.

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