Disposable Diaper Chemicals Under Investigation

Disposable Diaper Chemicals Under Investigation

I opened my local paper (the San Diego Union-Tribune) the other day to find this headline, "Diaper-rash cases spur probe by safety agency." The Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched an investigation into Pampers' Dry Max diapers following "complaints of babies and toddlers suffering severe and persistent diaper rashes and blisters that resemble chemical burns." Of course, Procter & Gamble denies the possibility that its "Dry Max technology" could be the cause. (Side note: I find the use of the word "technology" to be amusing - is the word "chemicals" too harsh-sounding for consumers?)

I've recently become aware of the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, which studies thousands of cosmetic products (soaps, moisturizers, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc) on the market and reports on the safety of each product's ingredients. The hope is that, with increased awareness about things like neurotoxins and reproductive toxins in our shampoo, consumers will refuse to purchase dangerous products and the entire market will change. Perhaps this investigation by the CPSC will address the dangers of applying chemical-filled diapers to the sensitive skin of babies' bottoms.

I'm not hopeful the CPSC results will make much difference in the marketplace. There is far too much money in this market, as is apparent in the quick-response damage-control team at P&G responding to the problem by dismissing the arguments of parents whose babies have been hurt and insisting that it's impossible (!) that their diapers could be causing the problem. Disposable diaper companies have been able to overcome bad publicity - and even scientific study results - in the past*. However, I'm hopeful that the current investigation will cause more parents to reconsider the health threats posed by constant exposure to the chemical in disposable diapers and investigate the possibility of using cloth diapers.

I will continue to use my 100% reusable cloth diapers and avoid the concern altogether. If you, or someone you know, are concerned about disposable diapers, find a local Real Diaper Circle and get support in making the switch to cloth diapers.

Heather McNamara

*including, for example the OSHA "Material Safety Data Sheet on Superabsorbent Polymer" [the chemicals in disposable diapers] stating, "Preexisting skin or breathing disorders may become aggravated through prolonged exposure". For more information, review the history compiled by Peggy O'Mara in A Tale of Two Diapers in Mothering magazine.)

P.S. Speaking of DryMax, did you see the claims that reducing the size and increasing the absorbency of their disposable diapers can reduce landfill contributions? Sounds like greenwashing to me. Want to reduce waste? Use 100% reusable cloth diapers.

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