The Truth About The Chemicals In Disposable Diapers

Mommy Myth:  Disposable Diapers Have Chemicals That Hurt Babies.

The Truth About Chemicals In Disposable Diapers

If you aren’t a parent, you just don’t know what a debate there is between cloth and disposable diapers.  Which are less expensive?  Which are better for the environment?  Which cause more diaper rash?  Which are easier to deal with?  Which are better for the child?  The list goes on.  It’s frightening and overwhelming as a parent to have to sort through this information.

One of the scariest claims that overwhelms the web is that chemicals found in disposable diapers that can leach into your baby’s skin causing infertility, cancer, or death.  It’s terrifying, but is it true?

1.  Dioxin  There are claims that this could cause cancer in your baby because of the trace amounts found in disposable diapers.  While it is true that dioxin is a toxic chemical, we are introduced to it mainly through our food.  It was found that we get 30,000-2,200,000 times more dioxin in our systems through our food sources than through disposable diapers.  And although we are more likely to ingest it in meat, vegetarians are not immune.  So the tiny bit of dioxin in a diaper really doesn’t affect much, or so says the studies.

2.  Tributyltin  This chemical has been known to cause fat-cell production and can affect the liver and immune system.  Scary stuff.  In 2000, Greenpeace stated that it found traces of it in disposable diapers in Germany.  Of course, everyone was up in arms.  Independent labs immediately tested every kind of diaper they could get their hands on to verify the results.  And they found…zip.  No TBT.  Greenpeace has since pulled their TBT findings from their website.  However, the results are still quoted by many without the information from the independent lab.  Was it really there?  Who knows.  But it doesn’t seem to be now.

3.  Sodium polyacrylate  Have you ever seen the gel beads breaking through a very full diaper?  That is sodium polyacrlate.  It’s a super absorbent material that keeps the baby dry.  The claim is that this chemical is linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from the 1980’s and will breed toxic-producing bacteria.  TSS was linked to unregulated tampon materials mostly made from polyester foam and cellulose.  It was so absorbent that women rarely had to change their tampons, causing an overabundance of naturally occurring bacteria which made them very ill.  The foam/cellulose material is no longer used. Sodium polyacrylate is now used as a regulated component of modern, and much less absorbent, tampons.

But as far as the material in diapers, there is no evidence that sodium polyacrylate outside of the body will pose any health risk at all (and studies have been done).  Of course, frequent changing of the diaper can do away with concern for this particular chemical.

Bottom line (yuk, yuk), the chemicals used in disposable diapers are safe according to the unbiased studies.  So feel confident in donning your baby’s bum with a ‘sposie.  At least where chemicals are concerned.  We will get to those other diaper myths later.

Photo courtesy of David Goehring on

Have you ever run out of wipes and couldn’t go to the store?  Get a wipes recipe here.

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    • I’m hoping to do some research and write a post comparing the environmental effects of cloth vs. eco-friendly vs. regular diapers. So interesting. And I totally hear you about using ‘sposies when you’re out and about! I’ve transported one too many poopy cloth diapers around in a wet bag. Thanks for commenting!

  1. I’ve always used disposables but I’m now contemplating using cloth diapers now that my toddler is about to be potty trained. We’ve never had an issue with either, it was mainly a matter of choice and TBH cloth diapers are expensive when initially purchased but works out cheaper in the long run.
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