By Larraine Roulston:
When the first disposable diapers appeared over 60 years ago, they were designed with snap-on reusable plastic pants. This invention was initially introduced just for travelling and vacationing with babies. The tactic was used to ease the transition towards the acceptance of plastic covered diapers for daily use. As soon as nurses began sending mothers home with a box of disposable diapers, it didn’t take long before parents accepted the convenience and began discarding the familiar cloth diapers and reliable safety pins. Today, disposable diapers claim an entire aisle at most retail stores. In the U.S. they contribute 7.6 billion pounds of waste annually. Even the awareness of the amount of excess garbage and the diaper’s sickly perfume scent were not enough to woo the majority back to cloth.
For years, the chemicals designed to absorb urine have been a concern; however, a current French study set out to investigate whether disposables contained any carcinogens and to determine how safe they are against a baby’s sensitive bottom. The French agency Anses, an organization in charge of food, environmental, and occupation health and safety, examined 23 diaper brands during 2016-2018. Anses stated, “A number of hazardous chemicals in disposable nappies could migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies’ skin.” Within the 206-page ‘Study in Baby Nappies’, researchers revealed glyphosate and additional chemicals that are typically found in cigarette smoke and diesel exhaust. In all, more than 60 chemicals were present, several of which were already prohibited in Europe. As a follow-up, the Ministry of Health in France undertook the action of notifying diaper manufacturers that they had less than a month to eliminate harmful toxins.
Disposables are one-quarter plastic – a chemical composition that should not be coming in contact with a baby’s delicate skin for any length of time. Also, chemicals in diapers have already been linked to allergic skin reactions and men’s low sperm count. In addition, when toddlers are ready to develop bladder control, they may have difficulty in determining if they are already wet. In spite of this, manufacturers of disposable diapers claim that their products are safe. Health secretary Agnès Buzyn, told French parents not to worry about immediate baby health issues but to remain aware of future risks. This report concluded, “At the current time and from what we know at the moment, it is not possible to exclude a health risk linked to the wearing of disposable nappies.”
Will modern parents adopt the safest long-term health interest for their offsprings and demand supermarkets and other retailers to restock cloth diapers? Washing diapers is not an onerous problem as the task is taken by water-efficient washing machines. Better still, will these parents be the ones who investigate going diaper-free with ‘Elimination Communication’. This technique explains how parents observe their baby’s need to be taken to the potty. On short outings, these infants will return home with a dry diaper and pee the instant they are propped up over the toilet. All childcare givers should not only be focussed on safeguarding babies from future side effects of disposable diapers, but also be aware that feces should receive proper disposal via sewage treatment. In addition, chemically soaked padding and plastic should not be incinerated or discarded in landfills.
Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. View, www.castlecompost.com