Sunday, May 16, 2010

To cloth or not to cloth

This post is part of the Real Diaper Facts carnival hosted by Real Diaper Events, the official blog of the Real Diaper Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to cloth diaper education. Participants were asked to write about diaper lies and real diaper facts. See the list at the bottom of this post to read the rest of the carnival entries.

Have you heard about the new line of Pampers that are allegedly causing chemical burns on the little bums of little ones? If you haven't, here's the story. Now Proctor and Gamble (who owns Pampers) has posted a ridiculous page on their website pitting "truth" against "myth." I'd like to take a minute to give you some real facts.
Let's talk about cloth diapers, shall we?

Pampers says:
"Myth: Cloth diapers are better for my baby.

Fact: Disposable diapers like Pampers were developed to offer babies benefits that cloth diapers could not meet. That goes beyond convenience to helping keep babies' skin dryer and more comfortable by reducing leaks and locking wetness inside the diaper in a way that cloth doesn't. As a result, doctors and parents simply don't see the same level of diaper rash that used to exist before disposable diapers."

The real facts are:
Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S.
Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.
Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbancy tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis.

 Pampers says:
"Myth: Cloth diapers are better for the environment than disposables.

Fact: In October 2008, the United Kingdom's Environment Agency published an update to its 2005 Life Cycle Assessment study on cloth versus disposable diapers. The update confirmed the earlier study's findings that there is no clear winner in terms of environmental impacts between disposable and cloth diapers in the U.K., once all factors such as water, energy, detergent, and disposal are considered."

The real facts are:
The instructions on a disposable diaper package advise that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding, yet less than one half of one percent of all waste from single-use diapers goes into the sewage system.
Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill. No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.
In 1988, nearly $300 million dollars were spent annually just to discard disposable diapers, whereas cotton diapers are reused 50 to 200 times before being turned into rags.
Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.
Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.
The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.

I know that generally people think that using cloth diapers is time-consuming and/or financially infeasible, but let me tell you that both of those thoughts are just not true. The fact is that cloth diapers are so easy to throw in the wash (even someone who has shared laundry facilities and has to walk outside to her laundry room) and not so much by way of financial investment (even for someone who has to pay to do her laundry). Once the initial cost of buying the diapers is met, the rest is only what it costs to do the wash. Think in terms of the long run what disposable diapers cost over the span of 2 1/2 to 3 years of diapering.
I personally think that most people who use disposables are just a little nervous about trying something so different from what everyone else around them does. I know that the choices and the washing routine can be overwhelming, but it takes such little time to get the hang of it. I really believe that if people really thought about the ramifications of using disposables, both to their babies' health and to the environment, that most would choose cloth over the convenience of disposables.
My goal here is not to judge or even necessarily to change minds (though that would be wonderful). My goal is to help give the facts and to help squash the rumors perpetrated by this ginormous institution that is not interested in the health and well-being of your baby. They are interested in making money and will post these ridiculous ideas in order to do so.

Besides, cloth are so cute, aren't they?

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  1. "Think in terms of the long run what disposable diapers cost over the span of 2 1/2 to 3 years of diapering." - - so true! My diapers will have been used for nearly 4 years on two children, spreading out the investment even more!

  2. but, but...Pampers has a new diaper with a strip that changes color when baby tinkles. Okay, weak reason to use Pampers but it is a nice "feature." :-)

  3. New Follower!! Great post, I have twins in cloth and found what pampers was say VERY annoying, I posted also:)! I love the monkey dipe on your babe...what is it??! Follow me at

  4. The monkey dipe is from this Etsy shop: I have a few of her diapers, and they're all very cute! Thanks for asking. :)