The choice of which type of diaper to use is not an easy decision or one without controversy. New and expectant parents must navigate a range of options and issues with their choice of diapers. But your diaper choice is an important first step to making a positive difference for your baby’s — and the environment’s — health.
With so many different choices and considerations, here are some issues and facts to consider.
The first and foremost consideration is the need to keep your baby’s skin dry and free from diaper rash which can be caused by wetness, lack of air circulation, chemical and dye allergies, and ammonia.
The need for a dry baby bottom led to the creation of the first disposable diaper in 1948 and widespread adoption, starting in the mid 1960s (90% of modern US babies use them now), of the modern, super-absorbent, disposable diaper which has come with health concerns and environmental costs.
Health concerns arise from the use of dyes, sodium polyacrylate (the super absorbent gel), and dioxin, which is a by-product of bleaching paper.
With rates of childhood asthma soaring, there are concerns about standard disposable diapers’ link to asthma like symptoms. A 1999 study of three leading diaper brands found sensory irritation and decreased breathing capacity in laboratory mice after just one hour. Standard disposable diapers often contain solvents and other chemical substances (such as toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and isopropylbenzene) that are bronchial and skin irritants.
Added to these concerns are the environmental pollution caused by the manufacture (and disposal, to be sure) of many disposable diapers. Dioxin, a by-product of pulp and paper bleaching, is produced by diaper companies who bleach their diapers. Dioxin is also a persistent, organic pollutant and carcinogen that easily accumulates in the environment.
Although cloth diapers may offer an environmentally pure alternative, for many new parents in survival mode this simply isn’t an option. For these families, here are a few of the best green diaper options:
Tushies brand diapers are gel free and made with non-chlorine bleached wood pulp and conventional cotton for natural high absorbency. They are bleached with hydrogen peroxide, so are chlorine free. There are also no super-absorbents chemicals in these diapers. Many reviewers state they have great absorbency and utility, though are somewhat bulky.
Seventh Generation’s diapers and training pants are extremely absorbent and chlorine-free (chlorine bleaching, used in most mainstream diapers, produces the pollutant dioxin). Seventh Generation diapers are also fragrance-free, latex-free and hypoallergenic. Many parent reviewers say these are the best diapers ever, and not just in the eco-friendly category. The Company discloses all of their ingredients and posts material safety data sheets on their web site.
The Swedish-based Nature Boy and Girl diapers feature a GMO-free cornstarch cover, rather than the typical plastic (making them compostable in municipal facilities). They do contain a mix of SAPs and wood pulp (certified by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, which, among other things, prohibits the use of chemical dyes, bleaching agents and fragrances).
Tendercare diapers are made by Tushies in the US, but contain SAP and wood pulp, rather than cotton. They, too, do not bleach their diapers with chlorine. Many moms report that they are not nearly as absorbent as the other “green” diapers, though they are thin and therefore comfortable for walking toddlers.
Whatever your choice in diapering method, using greener diaper alternatives supports your child’s first step towards a life of health and sustainability.