You’ve probably heard that disposable nappies are full of harmful chemicals. But, do you know exactly what those chemicals are and what they can do to your baby? Since nappies sit against your child’s skin for 2.5 to 3 years of their life, you will want to know what they are made of. This is why we’ve compiled a list of common chemicals found in disposable nappies and what kind of health risks they pose for your baby.
Chemicals in disposable nappies:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
- Sodium Polyacrylate
- Tributyl-tin (TBT)
- Adhesive chemicals
Thankfully, many nappy manufacturers have responded to environmental and health concerns by changing the composition of their disposable nappies. Despite this, there are still many chemicals present in disposable nappies. The best way to avoid these chemicals is to use chemical-free cloth nappies instead, like these Little Piglet snap nappies!
First of all, disposable nappies are made up of 3 layers:
- An inner layer
- An absorbent core
- A waterproof outer shell
These three layers are composed of different materials. Parents using disposable nappies should pay attention to the chemicals present in each layer. The inner layer, for example, sits right against the baby’s skin. Alarmingly, many nappy manufacturers don’t actually disclose what the inner layer of their nappies is made from.
The next layer is the absorbent core. Although it doesn’t come into direct contact with the baby’s bottom, any fluid that is absorbed into this layer may be squeezed out. The chemicals present in these core materials may leach out with the liquid and touch the baby’s skin.
The waterproof shell is separated from your baby’s skin by the two previous layers, but the chemicals in it can still be released into the air. Which means it’s still important to consider the presence of chemicals in this layer.
Cloth nappies share all these same essential layers of disposables, just without the chemicals. For example, these organic cotton Baby Beehinds nappies have a suedecloth inner lining, 6 layers of absorbent bamboo fleece, and a waterproof outer shell.
If you still want to try disposables, make sure you research the manufacturers and avoid the following harmful chemicals.
Nappies that have been bleached will contain traces of dioxins which are released from chlorine during the whitening process. In animal studies, dioxins have been found to interfere with hormones and the reproductive system, but also cause cancer and damage to the immune system.
Dyes can be seen in the colored patterns on disposable nappies and in the wetness indicator. These dyes can cause nappy rash or allergic reactions. One study published in Pediatrics found that babies demonstrated contact dermatitis to blue, pink, and green dyes in nappies.
This chemical is extremely toxic to aquatic life and, according to the EPA, disrupts hormones in aquatic organisms. It’s highly polluting and never degrades, eventually finding its way into our food chain. Organotin substances like tributyltin have toxic side effects such as reproductive and developmental effects, hormone disruption, and neurotoxicity. Research at the American Institute of Biological Sciences found that the chemical can promote the growth of fat cells in humans and lead to obesity. Even very low concentrations of the chemical have an effect on gene activity!
VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCS)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that are released in product manufacturing and appear in various household products like paints and glues. Examples of VOCs found in disposable nappies include toluene, dipentene, ethylbenzene, and xylene which have documented respiratory toxicity. A study published in the Archives of Environmental Health found that these chemicals, when released from nappies, were are toxic to the respiratory tract of animals and may cause or worsen asthmatic conditions in babies.
Many disposable nappies contain fragrances to mask odours. These artificial scents contain skin irritants which can cause nappy rash or respiratory problems for your baby. The most troubling thing about this is that the FDA allows nappy manufacturers to keep the ingredients of their fragrances a secret from the public. Many fragranced products have been found to emit VOCs that are toxic under federal law.
SODIUM POLYACRYLATE (SUPERABSORBENT POLYMER)
Sodium Polyacrylate is a chemical that absorbs fluids and prevents leakage in nappies. It’s one of the most common superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) used in the world today. This substance is visible as small, jelly-like crystals in the nappy and on your baby’s skin. Sodium Polyacrylate has been associated with toxic shock syndrome when it was previously used in tampons.
Since the chemical is fairly new and has only been used in nappies since the mid-80s, there is a lack of research available on its long-term health effects. However, there is evidence that the chemical is irritating to airways when inhaled.
Phthalates are chemicals are used to soften plastics which allow them to be bent without cracking. These are found in many household products, including plastic wrap, adhesives, shower curtains, and things made out of vinyl. This chemical has also been found in the waterproof shell of disposable nappies.
The problem with Phthalates is that they are slowly released into the air over time. Inhaling phthalates may cause respiratory problems and interfere with reproductive development.
HOW TO AVOID CHEMICALS IN NAPPIES
As long as you’re aware of the potential chemicals in nappies, you can conduct your own research into brands and avoid them. Many nappy manufacturers will list what chemicals are not present in their nappies. However, it’s more difficult to find out what chemicals are used in them. If a manufacturer doesn’t specify that a chemical is not present in the nappies, it’s safe to assume that it is.
The best and easiest way to avoid chemicals in disposable nappies is to ditch disposables altogether. Cloth nappies are chemical-free, breathable, and a lot of the time made from natural materials. Little Piglet’s cloth nappies are crafted with your baby’s wellness in mind. Made from breathable bamboo viscose and super-absorbent microfiber, who needs all those chemicals in disposable nappies anyway?