Argh! Are Diapers Toxic For Your Baby?

There’s a complete lack of data about the chemicals in diapers

4 min read
Argh! Are Diapers Toxic For Your Baby?

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If you aren’t a parent, you won’t know anything about the diaper debate: are disposable diapers safe, will cloth nappies make you a better mommy? What’s the scoop on extra dry ones and the dirt on diaper rash?

As a parent, keeping your baby safe and healthy is at the top of your parenting to-dos, but in spite of the 10,000 manuals on child raising, the right decisions are in a dark continent, no one really knows anything about.

It’s hard to imagine a life without disposable diapers - and for a good reason. But have you ever stopped to wonder what’s in them? Besides raising environment issues, can the material really harm your baby?


What’s in That Diaper?

I put my son only in cloth nappies till he was 4 months old. They were gentle on his chubby, smooth skin, saved the environment and the bucks. I thought that I could go on and on about the wonders of cloth nappies but the mess and the gross ultimately got on to me.

When I switched to the heavenly comfort of disposable diapers, the strangest thing I found was that diaper companies aren’t required to list the ingredients of their products on the label.

So what are they made of?

Though they are heavy on the pocket and raise environment issues, there’s no denying that throwaway nappies are a major convenience (Photo: Youtube/Flirting Vision)

Outer lining: The outer lining is a polyethylene film, basically the same stuff in a plastic wrap. Some manufacturers also add aloe vera and vitamin E in it as well.

Inner lining: It is usually made of polypropylene, generally found in the lining of carpets, thermal undergarments. Both these materials are considered completely safe for young skin.

The center: The center which is the absorbent contains wood-pulp and super absorbent polymers (SAPs). These polymers can soak up to 30 times their weight in urine. There is no conclusive study on how good or bad SAP is and it is unclear if sufficient testing has been done to ensure that SAP is non-toxic and safe.

Most SAP in use today is derived from petroleum, and therefore may contain chemical components of concern.

The cartoon print on the outside of many diapers are made of dyes.

Scented diapers contain a drop of citrusy perfume.


Can Diapers Cause a Rash Of Infertility?

(Photo: YouTube/The Essential One)

One of the scariest claims on the internet is that the chemicals found in disposable diapers can leach into the baby’s private parts causing infertility.

An alarming study which came out in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that male babies who wear plastic rather than cotton nappies had a significant rise in scrotum temperature, which the researchers theorize may cause infertility problems later in life. The scrotum is the external sac of skin that encloses the testes, where the body makes sperm.

The study was done on 48 babies in plastic Pampers and cotton nappies and compared their scrotal temperatures for the next 24 hours. They found a 1 degree Celcius rise in the babies who wore plastic diapers.

Now in adults, a rise in scrotal temperature is linked to a low sperm count but no one knows for sure the impact it has on the developing testes of a baby.

Diaper use can increase the temperature of the scrotum in a male child but whether it harms the developing private parts, no one can say with surety (Photo: iStock)

The cooling mechanism of testes is blunted during the diaper use but the impact is unknown. What we do know is that a 1 to 3 degree Celsius rise in testicular temperature can harm the sperm development and motility in adults.

Dr S Rana, Urologist

That being said, there are several potentially harmful chemicals in disposable diapers like chlorine, dyes, fragrances, phthalates but according to a study by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they are all mild in nature, can irritate the airways when inhaled but non-toxic.

What is perplexing is the lack of disclosure by manufacturers about what exactly is in the diaper that parents are putting on their baby’s skin 24*7 for at least 3 years. This utter lack of this transparency is supported by the government which does not ask ‘fragrance’ items to disclose their ingredients on the label or any other way.

So should parents apply the sceptic’s rule of thumb when it comes to baby products? If the manufacturers don’t say it’s not in there, then assume it’s in there?

Till now nothing has been conclusively proved against the multi-million dollar diaper industry, but parents should give enough breathing breaks to kids in between diapers.

As for me, putting diapers on my baby feels like a triumph and a defeat. I hope, my convenience is not exposing my child to some future health risks. But at the moment I am happy that I don’t have to agonise over when he will ruin his next outfit.

Also Read: So I Failed to Breastfeed, Crucify Me!

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Topics:  Motherhood   Disposable Diapers 

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