Environmentally savvy new parents may agonize when it comes time to choose between the convenience of disposable diapers and traditional, reusable cloth varieties. While old-fashioned plastic disposables are a definite no-no, it turns out that washing, bleaching and drying cloth diapers several times may actually be more harmful to the environment than swaddling your baby's booty in modern, biodegradable, chlorine-free disposables.
Regular disposable diapers are made with absorbent wood pulp that is bleached with chlorine, and cloth diapers must be bleached before reuse. Not only is bleaching harmful to the environment, some of the toxic dioxins released in the bleaching process may remain behind and irritate your baby's skin. Even worse, trace amounts of these chemicals could end up leaching into his pores and bloodstream, so stick to chlorine-free disposables to help keep your baby, and the environment, toxin-free.
Traditional-style disposable diapers are made with non-biodegradable plastic, and they may continue polluting our landfills for up to 550 years after you dispose of them. Most chlorine-free disposables are made of natural ingredients that are at least partially biodegradable, so you can throw them away with a clean conscience.
Less Health Risks
Many disposable diapers contain chemical fragrances, phthalates (plastic softeners), petroleum-based dyes, and lotions. These are added to improve the diaper's smell, look and feel, but not only are they unnecessary to your baby -- they could be harmful. A baby's sensitive skin may develop an allergic rash or dermatitis from chemical contact, and some dyes have been linked to ADHD, nerve impairment, asthma or even cancer. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, phthalates may potentially disrupt the endocrine or reproductive system of a developing baby. Chlorine-free disposable diapers are available without potentially harmful dyes, lotions or chemical fragrances.
A 1999 study at Vermont's Anderson Laboratories concluded that two of three brands of disposable diapers tested emitted harmful chemicals capable of causing respiratory distress and pulmonary irritation in mice. The respiratory problems increased after repeated exposure to the diaper chemical off-gassing. Chlorine-free diapers are made of naturally absorbent materials, like corn or wheat, and have fewer potentially harmful chemicals and vapors.
- Practically Green: Use Chlorine Bleach-free Disposable Diapers
- Pediatrics: Diaper Dye Dermatitis
- The Stir: Scary Synthetic Dyes in Your Kids' Toothpaste and Vitamins--Moms Need to Take Action
- Children's Hospital Colorado: Colored Dyes Could Be the Culprit for Some Babies With Diaper Rash
- Toxipedia: Diapers
- NCBI: Accute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions
- Pediatrics: Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure
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