About the Dangers of Disposable Diapers

Welcome to the first installment of my Did You Know… series, in my “Going Green Express” category.  In this series I will be collecting information from around the web by researching different sites which have already done all of the hard work for me.  I will always include links to all areas of interest so you can read the complete article for yourself if you would like. Though I do trust the blogging community, I also realize a lot of blogs are based on a persons beliefs and perspective of things, so I will be doing my research by visiting reputable sites outside of the blogging world when possible.

We have always heard, “knowledge is power” and I do believe this is true. Of course I also have come to realize over the years, sometimes it would be best if we could un-learn knowledge we have obtained. Today’s post is no exception, as we will be discussing the dangers of disposable diapers. Those are the exact words I used in GOOGLE SEARCH when I began my research for this article – try it if you would like, but be warned the information you will find is quite alarming.

I am going to start with disposable diapers because I have just made the switch to cloth – a bit late in my toddlers life I might add.  I have been chasing a diaper rash for quite some time now; it will clear up almost completely and then the next morning his little bottom will be beet- red again.  I have cut out using wipes, to using natural, scent- free soaps and water on a soft cloth.  I have changed bathing soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents and lotions. I have switched out diaper rash creams more times than I can count.  I have borrowed breast milk, purchased all natural products and as stated above changed to cloth diapers from disposable.  I have bathed him daily, let him run naked and cried with joy thinking something has finally worked, only to scream in anger internally the next day when his little bottom became inflamed again. I have tried everything under the sun, except for the steroid cream the doctors gave me which “can cause sterilization, stunt growth and/or cause thinning of the blood vessels”. (WHAT??) I am working on potty training him, but he still shows no interest in going on his own and at times will cry uncontrollably when I put him on his tiny commode. If I hear the words, “He should already be potty trained at his age” one more time, I may scream!  After researching disposable diapers, (I had already made the change to cloth before this), I have to wonder why I had not done so earlier and therefore would have made the switch to cloth sooner. To all of you new and expecting Momma’s out there – trust this old dog who has just learned a new trick, cloth diapers are the only way to go. If this article does not convince you, nothing will.


  • In 2009, Americans dumped nearly 4 million tons of disposable diapers into landfills.
  • Diaper companies are self-regulated. This simply means diaper companies are responsible for ensuring their products are safe.
  • Because diaper companies are self-regulated, they are not required to list all of the ingredients, chemicals, glues, etc. which are used in developing their products.

    English: diaper pile

    Image via Wikipedia

  • Andersen Laboratories published in the Archives of Environmental Health in 1999 showed diaper emissions were found to include several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity. (These emissions did NOT come from dirty diapers mind you – just the diaper themselves.) It was also noted that xylene and ethyl benzene were emitted by the diapers, chemicals that are suspected endocrine, neurological and respiratory toxins. Styrene, a chemical linked to cancer and isopropylene, a neurotoxin were also visible in emissions.
  • Diapers contain a variety of plastics, adhesives, glues, elastics and lubricants. Some of these ingredients can cause irritation.
  • Most disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, which is a super-absorbant gelling material. The safety data sheet for sodium polyacrylate indicates that “the respirable dust is a potential respiratory tract irritant.” The dust “may cause burning, drying, itching and other discomfort, resulting in reddening of the eyes.”
  • When the papers used to make diapers are bleached, they can contain cancer-causing dioxin.
  • Diapers also contain polyurethane, adhesives, inks and lotions.
  • The lotions used to coat the diaper linings contains the same substance found in Vaseline, which has the potential to be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH‘s.
  • PAH’s are cancer causing chemicals found in crude oil.
  • The fragrance agents used in many diapers to hide the smell of fecal order contains phthalates, which is a class of chemicals known to disrupt the endocrine system.
  • It takes five hundred and fifty years for a disposable diaper to decompose!

Now I do not know about you, but I find it quite alarming to learn diaper companies do not have a babysitter ensuring their products are not harmful to our Little Angels, not to mention the fact they are not required by law to list the chemicals and materials used in making them. Cancer-causing dioxins? PAH’s found in crude oil are also present in diapers? Sodium polyacrylate, a respiratory tract irritant? And let us not forget the potential damage to the endocrine system. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes. With all of these potential health risks I am genuinely surprised disposable diapers are even legal. I am unsure how they can state these diapers take five hundred and fifty years to decompose, given the fact they have yet to be around for this long. However, it still leaves me shocked knowing the diapers I put on my daughters bottom some twenty years ago are still sitting in a landfill somewhere in Houston, Texas. Can you say, “DISTURBING”?

Information for this article was found while researching the following sites.


Greener Than I Used to Be

Over the past five years I have made very small changes in our lives, slow changes so as not to upset the apple cart. First I started with recycling our bottles and slowly it has grown to the point where we have more recyclables than we do garbage come trash-day. The only bad thing I can find in this scenario is, the recycle truck only comes through our neighborhood once a week. I am sure I miss things which could be recycled so maybe I should find a bigger recycle bin.

Recently I have become more aware of many things we use around our home, wasteful choices we make and habits formed over a lifetime which will affect the world forever. That’s right – I said it. Choices I made even yesterday in the midst of my new awakening, will affect the world forever. What does this say about the years of choices I made while being unaware, or perhaps in denial, of my actions? Just like with all regrets, I will put this one behind me and move beyond it. In order to do so I will have to implement changes in our lives which will make a difference for future generations. How do I get everyone in my home on-board the Going Green Express? *Well, lucky for me I have a wonderfully understanding husband and if I can show him a reason why this is better for our family, make a flowchart and a list of easily followed instructions he will gladly follow suit. Our son is merely twenty-seven months old; he will become the man we raise him to be.

You can pick up any cleaning supply and read the label for yourselves; the ingredient list is long and filled with chemicals we have never heard of, much less can we pronounce many of them. We leave lights on around the house, TV’s blaring and radios playing in the background. We smoke our cigarettes and throw butts out the window while we drive down the road. They catch afire, flames burning out of control as they engulf trash along our highways. Diapers overflow from pails dumped into landfills, rotting with urine and feces, causing toxic gasses and disease. I suppose this list could grow on forever, but I think you understand where I am coming from.

So what changes have I made in our household and how far will I take the Going Green Express? I can honestly admit I do not know how far I will go. Sometimes I grab hold of something and I do not let go until everything is in line. I do need to be honest with myself; I am spoiled. I love air-conditioning. I love my SUV. I love packing my Prince up in his car-seat and taking a road trip. I love soft, fuzzy, clean clothes. On the other hand, I dislike so many things which have overflowed inside our home. I dislike plastic toys – but they are everywhere. When I look at replacing some of them with more natural materials, I am appalled at the cost. Disposable diapers – what a nasty, wasteful, unhealthy choice so many of us have made for generations. Household cleaners make my asthma kick in, making it difficult for me to breathe.   My hands are left dry and my skin cracks. I worry about Riley Jabe crawling, walking, running across the floor – bending over to pick up a piece of his fallen snack and plopping it in his mouth after it has laid on a floor cleaned with chemicals I cannot pronounce.

Is it enough to find a happy medium and will this suit our family better than a full on assault of “going green”? These are questions I will have to answer in time, as we learn a new way to live. To date these are the changes I have made (slowly) over the past five years and I do plan on maintaining within our home.

I must be honest here – while the Rockin’ Green does seem to get my laundry clean, it does not offer much in the way of “smelling clean”. Of course this could be the fragrance I picked, or I could simply not be using enough of it so I am going to keep on trying. If you have a “green” detergent you use and are happy with why not leave a little note in the comment section. I have the same issue with the wool dryer balls I am using BUT they do work. My clothes are static and lint free and since this is what we are looking for in dryer balls they find themselves in the keep drawer.

I also have to admit going green is not the least expensive thing I have ever done. However I have made the flowcharts, researched and penciled out the math. I honestly believe that while some things (like laundry detergent) are always going to be more expensive and I will have to purchase them at the same rate as non-green cleaners, purchasing other going green products will in the end save me money and even pay for themselves. For instance, the new light-bulbs claim to last for three to five years. Yes, they do cost me more now – but do you know how many times I had to replace the same lamp bulb two years ago?   This is not even to mention the difference in my electric bill; though it may only save me pennies a day per light socket, it does add up by years end.

I know we still have a long way to go on the Going Green Express,  just as I know the importance in making these changes. Do I believe my family and I can save the world?   No – but I do believe we can change our little corner of it.


For more information on recycling, going green and reasons you should, please follow these links:

©KLynn Miller

*I have been asked by DH to make a notation, so here it goes. He does not need a flowchart, but what he does need is to know the new products I fill our home with will work, without putting us into bankruptcy. Oh and, “Remember – sometimes you just need to bleach the crude out of things!” I can understand and agree with all of those things, if it gets him aboard the Going Green Express without too much fuss. (Don’t look now, but that bottle of bleach on top of the dryer, has been there for at least four years. The same bottle. Shhh – please do not tell him we are not actually USING the bleach!)