Are Disposable Diapers Safe?

When considering a child’s health, disposable diapers contain fragrances and dyes that could harm a baby. A super-absorbent gel, sodium polyacrylate, is linked to toxic shock syndrome in tampons; and dioxin, a byproduct of bleaching paper in diapers, is a known carcinogen.

Are Disposable Diapers Safe?The National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory analyzed toxin exposure through diapers and tampons. Their results were a little surprising: “Although dioxins are found in trace amounts in both cotton and pulp sanitary products, exposure to dioxins through tampons and diapers does not significantly contribute to dioxin exposures in the United States.” 1 Similarly, there is no evidence of harm caused by sodium polyacrylate crystals. 2

During a 2000 study in Germany, researchers discovered boys wearing disposable diapers had higher scrotal temperatures than boys wearing cloth diapers, raising a red flag about lower sperm counts. A 2002 study refuted the original evidence, though, and it was proved that temperatures were the same, regardless of disposable or cloth diapers. 3

Procter & Gamble made headlines in 2010 after the introduction of their Pampers with Dry Max diapers. Parents began complaining that the new diapers caused severe diaper rashes, chemical burns, blisters, welts, bleeding, peeling, cracking, and scarring – and that the symptoms disappeared once they switched to another brand of diapers. In response, Procter & Gamble defended their diapers and said the accusations were “completely false rumors fueled by social media.” 4

As more parents complained, Procter & Gamble stood by Pampers with Dry Max, calling them the brand’s “biggest innovation in 25 years.” 5 The diapers are 20 percent thinner because the typical paper pulp insert was replaced by an absorbent storage core, made by polyacrylate gel. The diapers also are made with polyethylene and polypropylene (neither are recognized carcinogens), and a lotion. Procter & Gamble states that 20 million pounds of trash would be reduced annually if all Pampers were switched to the Dry Max variety. 6

In May 2010, a group of seven parents filed a lawsuit against Procter & Gamble, which Procter &Gamble called “meritless.” 7 The Dry Max diapers remained on store shelves. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission began investigating almost 4,700 incident reports and by September 2010, the CPSC announced they could not find a link between the diapers and diaper rash. 8

Disposable diaper options
For parents who are concerned about the materials used in disposable diapers but still want a disposable choice, a host of healthy options are available:

  • Some cloth diapers include biodegradable liners that can be flushed down the toilet once soiled.
  • Biodegradable and compostable disposable diapers also are available, although twice the price as a typical disposable diaper.
  • Chlorine-free disposable diapers contain reduced amounts of dioxin. You can find disposables made from organic cotton, too.
1. “Exposure Assessment to Dioxins from the Use of Tampons and Diapers.” Mike Devito. Environmental Health Perspectives.
2. and 3. “Solving Your Diaper Dilemma.” Katherine Kam. Web MD.
4. “Pampers Calls Rumors Completely False.” May 6, 2010. Procter & Gamble.
5. “Pampers Dry Max Journey.” July 7, 2010. Procter & Gamble.
6. “Pampers Dry Max Explained: FAQs.” Procter & Gamble.
7. “P&G being sued over Pampers Dry Max Diapers.”  May 13, 2010. Reuters.
8. “Diaper Gripes Grow Louder for P&G.” Ellen Byron. Yahoo Finance. May 14, 2010.
“No Specific Cause Found Yet Linking Dry Max Diapers to Diaper Rash.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Sept. 2, 2010.
“Pampers Dry Max Explained: FAQs.” Procter & Gamble.
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Hilary Kimes Bernstein is a Christ follower, wife, mama, and journalist. She writes about making healthy decisions that honor God and happen to help the environment at Accidentally Green. Short and sweet - like her writing - Hilary is the author of several healthy living eBooks.

Lovely comments

  1. Deidra says

    I really like that a lot-Accidentally Green…since I have been a mom, I find myself being that way too. Mine is almost one. I switched from cloth about a month ago because I just couldn’t handle the solid poop and not being able to throw it in the washing machine. Plus the fifteen minutes of trying to wash it out in the toilet while fighting my now toddler out of the toilet. I have been researching more and the Earth’s Best I’ve been using are not AS great as I assumed…and the natural-Looking Seventh Generation are actually dyed to look that way. Disgusting how deceit is such a commonly used tool. I ordered Bambo Natural size 4s this morning. I’m interested to know if you’ve done any research since writing this!

    • says

      Since my babies are grown and out of diapers, I haven’t updated my research. I do remember that the toddler stage was so difficult with so much extra pee and poop and cloth diapers not working at that point.


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