Cloth vs. Disposables: Health Benefits

Video Source Kayla Rex

You know that cloth diapers are much easier on your wallet than disposables, but did you know that they are also much easier on your baby’s skin? Yes! Another great reason to use cloth is for the health of your baby.

Disposable diapers are well known for their super urine absorbing powers. Many people praise diaper companies for their continued “improvement” in the area of liquid absorption.  True, disposable diapers can hold about 400-500ccs of liquid; this would be about 3-5 typical wettings for a baby. That is quite a lot of urine! Most disposable diapers do not even feel wet until they have been wet on at least two or three times; therefore, most families use less disposable diapers per day than they do cloth diapers. Is this a good thing? No! Whether a baby is in disposable or cloth diapers, they are going to the bathroom the same number of times. The difference is the mother who has a baby in disposables does not know her child has gone and will (in most circumstances) unknowingly leave their baby in a wet diaper for longer periods of time. “But their skin isn’t getting wet because disposables wick away so much moisture, so does it really matter?” YES!!! Even though the diaper wicks the moisture away from their skin, the baby is still sitting in a diaper that has urine in it. Urine has ammonia. The ammonia is still present in that diaper until the baby is changed. This is one contributing factor to diaper rash for disposable diaper babies.


Another downside to the super absorbing power of modern disposable diapers is that they can over dry the skin. Not only do they pull urine and wetness into the diaper, they also pull the natural oils from the baby’s skin into the diaper as well. This can cause an over-drying effect on the baby’s bottom. This again is something that can cause a rash in a disposable diapered baby.

Disposable diapers also contain many different types of chemicals that can contribute to various issues for babies. Most disposables contain the following chemicals: Dioxin, TBT, Sodium Polycrylate, Volatile Organic Compounds, and various dyes, fragrances, plastics, and petrolatums.

What does this mean??

  1. Dioxins – are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.
  2. Tributyl-tin (TBT) – it is a highly toxic biocide. Greenpeace toxics expert Thilo Maack said “Fact is that TBT is one of the most toxic substances ever made, and it is being spread through the environment. It can be absorbed through the skin and contaminates the environment as well as people,” he noted. This environmental pollutant has a hormone-like effect. The smallest concentrations of TBT can harm people’s immune systems and impair their hormonal system.
  3. sodium polyacrylate – It is the granular polymer inside of the disposable diaper that absorbs wetness. This is the polymer that allows disposables to hold so much liquid. It is a known skin irritant! Because it is able to absorb so much liquid it actually can dry the skin out. This is the most likely culprit for diaper rash in disposable diapered babies. It can strip all the natural oils from the skin causing irritation.
  4. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – A study conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999, published in the Archives of Environmental Health, found that disposable diapers release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and dipentene. All of these VOCs have been shown to have toxic health effects, such as cancer and brain damage, with long-term or high-level exposure.
  5. dyes, fragrances, plastics, and petrolatum – these are items added to the diaper to make them look, smell, and fit better. They can cause allergic reactions and skin irritations.

One recent event that hit the news, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission got 4,700 complaints of diaper rash (from Pampers Dry Max) between April and August of 2010 and since has evaluated the Dry Max diaper materials, construction and heat and moisture retention issues, reports “CPSC staff cannot rule out that there may exist a health concern for some babies,” the statement continued. “Most babies exhibit diaper rash at least once in their lifetime. If parents or caregivers believe that their child is suffering from a rash that they believe to be related to a diaper, CPSC staff suggests that they discontinue use of the diaper and contact their pediatrician.” Ultimately the study by the CPSC found “no link” between Pampers Dry Max and the diaper rash. However, there were 4,700 complaints? Puzzling, I think so. These were not typical diaper rashes either. Most mothers were complaining of a chemical type burn and even boils.

In conclusion, I would not want to expose my children to any of the potential health risks associated with the use of disposable diapers. At least with a cloth diaper, you know what is in it and that does not include chemicals!


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