Due to my daughters uncontrollable diaper rash, my pediatrician’s recommendation, and after some research I made the switch to cloth diapers. Every parent using disposable diapers should know about the potential health risks. What I read shocked me. It turns out disposable diapers contain in them traces of various toxic chemical substances which come from the processing of the paper and plastic used in their manufacture, to specific chemicals intentionally added to them.
In her article “The Diaper Drama,” Heather L. Sanders, one of the founders of Real Diaper Association (www.realdiaperassociation.org), states that from the bleaching process to make the diapers super white disposable diapers are riddled with traces of byproducts such as dioxins and furans (organochlorines), which are “extremely persistent and toxic.” 
The EPA lists dioxins as likely carcinogens, causing “adverse non-cancer health effects” in animals and humans including changes in hormone systems, alterations in fetal development, reduced reproductive capacity, and immunosuppression . “Avoid all organic chemicals that have ‘chloro’ as part of their names” recommends Jonathan Cambpell, a health consultant in Boston, Massachusetts. On his Web site, he states that dioxins are the most toxic substances known to man, second only to radioactive materials .
Greenpeace claims: “According to World Health Organization figures: A piece of dioxin the size of a small grain of rice, if distributed equally and directly to people, is equivalent to the ‘allowable’ yearly dose for one million people.” 
Dioxins and furans have also been linked to learning disorders, autism , birth defects such as spinal bifida , shortened lactation periods in nursing mothers, and various diseases such as endometriosis and diabetes . Dioxins have been targeted for elimination under the Stockholm Convention .
In 2000, tests on behalf of Greenpeace found the hormone pollutant tributyl tin (TBT) and other organotin compounds present in various brands of disposable diapers including “Pampers Baby Dry Mini” sold in Germany by Proctor & Gamble . P&G downplayed the incidents and showed no effort to find the source of contamination . Organotins, like dioxins, are also known to be extremely toxic in very small quantities that can be absorbed through the skin, harm the immune system, and mimic hormones in humans .
Sodium polyacrylate (SAP) is another dangerous chemical compound in disposable diapers added to make them superabsorbent. Added in powder form to the inside layer of the diaper, it turns into a gel when it comes in contact with liquid . In 1985 this substance was banned from tampons in the United States after it was found to be linked to toxic shock syndrome . In his article “Superabsorbers,” Wayne Goates, expert in superabsorber chemistry, cautions about it’s use stating “It is considered to be non-toxic, but inhalation of airborne particles of the powder or contact with the eye can have some serious adverse reactions.”  Some of those reactions, he states, are respiratory problems.
There are claims that workers in factories where SAP is produced suffer from female organ damage, fatigue, and weight loss, creating concern about the lack of long-term studies made to assess the risks of prolonged exposure to this substance on babies vulnerable genitals . All disposables contain SAP, even those “eco-friendly” ones .
SAP and the rest of the contaminants present in diapers are very likely the reason for the dramatic increase of diaper rash among American babies, from 7.1 percent in 1955 to 78 percent in 1991 . According to a 1991 study sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, makers of pampers and Luvs, diaper rash had risen to a whopping 61 percent by 1991, thanks to the increased use of their disposable diapers .
Sanders points out that their super absorbent quality not only absorbs urine but also the natural moisture of the baby’s skin, creating more susceptibility toward dryness and skin irritation . Changing the diaper less frequently also makes the baby more vulnerable to developing diaper rashes. Sanders also mentions that according to the Journal of Pediatrics, 54 percent of one month old babies using disposable diapers experienced rashes and 16 percent has severe rashes .
Disposable diapers also give off emissions from plastics and fragrances, raising the possibility of respiratory irritation in babies. In one 1999 study, mice that were monitored while breathing emissions from two of three brands of disposable diapers showed reduced lung function in keeping with the symptoms of asthma. (The brands were not specified in the published study.) The mice that breathed emissions from the one brand of cloth diapers that was tested did not have these respiratory problems. The researchers concluded, “Diapers should be considered as one of the factors that might cause or exacerbate asthmatic conditions.” 
When it comes to cotton, the alarming amounts of pesticides used to grow it, unless it’s organic, has become a health concern in the use of disposable diapers. Residues from these pesticides can remain in the textiles used to make our clothes and cloth diapers, so it is preferable to use organic diapers if your financial means allow . It may also be possible to reduce residues of certain pesticides in cotton materials through various methods of washing with different products .
Since the percentage of U.S. families presently using disposable diapers is so high, over 95 percent , the long-term effects of these chemicals in disposable diapers could be considerable and are yet to be documented. One such concern has already arisen in the link between the prolonged use of disposable diapers hindering the normal development of the testicles in boys possibly leading to sterility and testicular cancer in adulthood .
Knowing these facts has helped me to make better, more informed choices and reduce my baby’s unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals. Although I have not completely eliminated the use of disposable diapers at home, I limit their use to particular situations.
My advice to parents is simple: Don’t follow trends just for the sake of convenience. Our children are too precious.
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15. Schorr, Melisa. Infertility Attributed to Diaper Use. www.abcnew.go.com. Sept. 25, 2008 [Accessed 12 Nov. 2008] abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117939&page=1