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Toxins in Disposable Diapers: Dioxin and Sodium Polyacrylate

Written by Print 

Most parents have heard about the dangers of BPA in infant bottles, and as such, stores usually sell BPA-free options.  However, there are other dangers that parents do not yet know about.

Disposable diapers pose a health risk to children.  We have previously reported on sanitary pads and tampons causing endometriosis through dioxin exposure.  Dioxins are a byproduct of chlorine, which is used during the bleaching process.  Dioxins accumulate in the body throughout the lifetime of victims.  Dioxin exposure as a child will impede the immune system of the individual forever.  It means that they will never be as strong as they should have been.  Dioxins are responsible for a range of reproductive and developmental problems, damaging the immune system, along with causing major hormonal imbalances and cancer.  Many infants are now exposed to dioxins 24 hours a day, and yet society wonders why girls are beginning puberty younger than ever, and hormonal disorders are becoming increasingly common in children.

Unfortunately, dioxin is not the only issue with disposable diapers.  Sodium Polyacrylate is an absorbent gel that is responsible for absorbing moisture inside the diaper.  It was once present in tampons, but was removed for causing Toxic Shock Syndrome.  Sodium polyacrylate has been implicated as a contributing factor of staph infections.  It is a skin irritant, because it is able to absorb all of the oils and moisture from the skin, yielding a drying effect.  It is no surprise, then, that problems like diaper rash are almost non-existent for babies having cloth diapers.  The effects of topical exposure to sodium polyacrylate have only been minimally studied, so we do not yet know what damage it is doing.  For the interest of our children, it is wise to err on the side of caution.

There are a variety of different dying agents used in diapers, ranging from indicators informing the parent of wetness, to colored patterns for improved appearances.  Infants are showing allergic reactions to these diapers, and parents of these children are typically unable to identify the diapers as the cause.  It is not uncommon for steroid creams to be used to treat these allergic reactions, with neither the doctor nor parent suspecting involvement by chemical dyes.

We strongly recommend that people look into the possibility of using cloth diapers, or at the very least, purchase unbleached, dye-free disposable diapers at a specialty or health food store.  The health of our children is worth the minor inconvenience.


Related Articles

Sanitary Tampons and Pads: How Their Dioxins Are Leading To The Endometriosis Epidemic

Curing Endometriosis Through Natural Methods

Soy is Unfit for Human Consumption



Comments (32)
  • Jessica F.

    As a mother and a person that is interested in preserving our planet for future generations, I am not surprised to read the findings in this article. This is the stuff that people don't expect to hear about a product that is marketed for babies. There are so many people that are out of the loop on the safety of the items their baby comes in contact with on a daily bases. We use cloth 100% of the time and are happy to do so. It is not a minor inconvenience for us, in fact, it is one of the things I am most happy to do as a parent. We are proud to be informed and use the information we learn to make a difference. I appreciate your posting this article and hope that it inspires other parents to do what is best for their babies.

  • Samantha  - Cloth.

    This is another reason why we use cloth. Also why women can use mama cloth. I knew cloth users got less rashes. You can also you cloth wipes to not use so much chemicals on your babies bum!

  • Amanda

    Cloth diapered children can still get rashes, though. A friend of mine had a cloth diapered child that had constant rashes. It's called change your child enough! I use unbleached chlorine free disposables.

  • Stephanie  - oposite

    diaper rash is usually caused from a yeast overgrowth whoch is caused from formula. my daughters never had a diaper rash, they were both breast fed

  • Stephanie C.

    All of my children have been breasfed, and most of them have had thrush. Thrush is caused by yeast overgrown due to an imbalance in your gut. Babies can get this when born or if the mother and/or baby were on antibiotics. It can also be passed from the mother to the baby through breastmilk. A crappy diet, or one that is high in sugar, can cause this since the yeast feeds on sugar. Can a formula fed baby get thrush/yeast? Yes. Can a breastfed baby get it as well? Yes. Let's not act like it is just formula that causes this.

  • Diamond

    We have used cloth diapers and breastfed...and while we change our daughter often she did end up with yeast infections (a form of diaper rash) pretty often. It is all possible in any combination that does not set well with their body. The most common diaper rash that cause red, dryness is from moisture sitting against the skin in cloth diapers from not changing frequently enough. It is the same for disposable; however, chemical irritants will add to the effect.

  • lilmomma  - It's not just the changing..

    In the past couple of years I have been surpised at the cloth diaper momma I have met that didn't understand proper care of the dipes & had rah & leak issues due to the needing to strip the dipes & then use less detergent & more rinsing. I've cloth diapered two children with never a single rash...ever. I don't change them every hour or do anything special...I just take great care in laundering (including using vinegar every load both to sanitize as well as soften the water)& that combined with changing them as they needed, they've done great. the only rash we've dealt with is a little eczema & I figured out it wasn't an issue if I stated away from wool covers for my older one. I don't think wool causes eczema (nor do I think eh is allergic as he can handle it any place else on his body), but for him it seemed to irritate it since his "bad area" was right along the edge of the diaper line on the thighs.

    Anyway - I just would not necessarily assume that any rash is caused either by what a baby is fed or by how frequently the baby is changed - there can be MANY causes & some children are more prone than others. My 2nd one never had eczema or any issue with wool covers. They were fed & diapered identically (breast & cloth).

  • Lawryan

    Amanda has a point but at the same time there are children (like my daughter) that get worse rashes from disposables then with cloth. I personally entertained the idea of switching to cloth due to money but then while doing resurch found info like this about disposables and it made me make the final decision to try cloth. Once seeing the difference myself, I made the choice to cloth diaper my son when he was born. Sadly he couldnt due to size till just this week (at 2 months old). There are better options out there then just regular pampers or huggies and I wish more parents would do the resurch before just grabbing the first thing that others tell them to get.

  • Ashley  - rashes

    Unfortunately cloth diapered babes still get rashes but it is my understanding that it can sometimes be caused by the build up of bacteria on the diapers. This kind of rash is a simple fix, let you diapers sun dry and the bacteria will be "bleached" out. They also have special soaps for this problem. hope this helps

  • Holly

    I use cloth diapers for my son since day 1, and after I learned of the dioxins in disposables I switched my daughter at 10 months old. Thanks for this article, I wish this info was more publicized. My daughter NEVER got diaper rashes with cloth, but my son gets a lot of rashes. His urine is very strong and if he sits in it for even 10 minutes he will get a rash. I believe if we used disposables on him it would be far worse though. Not everyone's skin is tolerant of chemicals (it shouldn't have to be) and I believe these chemicals are what's causing so much skin sensitivities these days in addition to all the toxins in the environment and in our diet. I also read an article about Pampers Dry Max that was causing serious chemical burns on babies' bottoms. Wake up, people!!

  • Emma

    I happily cloth diaper!!!! I love it, its better for the baby, planet and not to mention WAY cuter!!!

  • Anonymous  - harmfull???

    sodium polyacrylate CH2C(HOO NA) is danger for people if they eat it??
    because my friends kid had some and she s warried alot.pls ansewer me soon.thx for you deatails.

  • C. Thomas Corriher (Managing Editor)

    I think that dioxins and the other industrial impurities are actually more of a concern than the sodium polyacrylate is. Sodium polyacrylate was carefully chosen for diapers, due to its overall non-toxicity with oral ingestion.

    The kid will probably be fine, so long as diapers are removed from the diet. Parents of toddlers have a tendency to panic, but kids tend to be surprisingly resilient.

    Perhaps you should tell your friend that while this is likely to be a false alarm, that nonetheless, it could be a wakeup call for making her home chemical free. Also, tell her to read about activated carbon, and always have some ready.

  • Geert Anthonis  - Love a good scare story

    Always fun to read a good scare. After all who wants to read all is well in the. Being 48 years old myself and my brother and sister all grow up using only washable diapers as at the time disposables were just to expensive for my parents. I love to hear my mother tell the horror stories of rashes and endless diaper washes.
    Now that I am father myself, my wife and I made, after careful consideration, the decision to use mainstream disposable diapers for our 1,5 years son and 2 months old daughter. Very little problems with rashes. We found that it depends more on what our son eats than anything else whether he gets a little rash. All in all there has only been one serious case of diaper rash.
    Plus all that talk about commercial diapers being non-degradable. A load of crock. I remove the absorbent material and add it to my soil and it is a joy to see our plants and vegetables thrive. Ok there is a bit of plastic left over that goes in the general garbage. You can not have it all.
    Keep up the scaremongering!

  • C. Thomas Corriher (Managing Editor)

    The previous message was traced to China. They are constantly attacking this site (40x more than all other countries combined), so they are obviously upset that this site is helping people to protect their children from the Chinese poisons, which are lacing children's products. The "Geert Anthonis" above is probably actually named something like 'Ling Shaw Ching Ku', and relishes the thought of someday conquering the United States.

  • Cassandra Crane

    For the record, every disposable ever made still exists, -Your right parts of it do break down but alot of it will take many many many more years.

  • maggie

    I have used the disposable diapers for both of my children and have only had one bad rash and it was a yeast infection that had nothing to do with the diaper itself. I have tried the name brands and the off brands as each seemed to have a different absorbency. Its fine to use cloth diapers i haven't many issues with them (carrying around dirty diapers while out grosses me out) but the scare tactics some people will use to sway you bother me.. do your own research even if it means using both types for your baby to get the best idea, because every baby, family and situation are different.
    (btw you can trace me back to Ontario Canada)

  • Jessica Wright  - What about Seventh Generation??

    I use gDiapers when I'm at home and Seventh Generation disposables when out and about. I am now questioning Seventh Generation based on the fact that they use sodium polyacrylate. Should I be considered that this ingredient is in their diapers and look to switch? Any information would be much appreciated as I am a bit confused on what I'm reading from everywhere!

  • C. Thomas Corriher (Managing Editor)

    Cloth diapers are the only completely safe diapers. That's it in a nutshell. All of the other "miracles of modern science" come with varying, and sometimes disputable levels of risk. Some of the risks can last a lifetime.

  • Nikki  - No surprise

    We use cloth diapers as much as possible and an eco-friendly disposable when out for long periods.

    Parents need not fret about cloth diapers - they are easier than you think if you give them a try. Besides being a greener choice, they also save you time and money. It takes me less effort to wash them myself (no diaper service) than to hop in my car, drive over to the store, stand in a line up to pay and come home.

    I have noticed mine become less absorbent over time, but haven't trusted any of the recommended products to "strip" the build up.

    Any advice beside the sun? Living in a place with cold winters make it hard to do sun bleaching year round.

    Also, a list of the best disposables to use would be great - even amongst the lesser known brands there are so many to choose between and the ingredients are not always listed.

    Many thanks!

  • Jessica

    A thorough wash with regular dawn dish soap and water as hot as you can get it(I turn up the water heater and add a couple pots of boiling water) followed by a few extra rinse cycles until there are no more bubbles really does a great job getting out the build up.

  • Jules

    Also, don't use diaper creams like desitin with cloth diapers, they create a water resistant layer and need to be stripped more often.

  • Kody McNeil  - Convenience over extra washing?

    I have two daughters aged 4 and 2. I used disposable nappies from day 1 with both of them as it was a convenience thing more than anything and probably a naive thought that cloth nappies were still terry towel squares pinned securely to a child and a plastic pilcher! I am due to give birth to my third child in 8 weeks time and have a lovely collection of "modern" cloth nappies all washed, stuffed and folded ready to go. No matter how often i changed my 4 yr olds nappy she was forever getting a nappy rash, yet only rashes on 2 yr old during teething. So it will be interesting to see the difference in solely using cloth nappies on bub no. 3. I've already noticed the $$$$ saving - and the modern cloth nappies are so cute!And really what's an extra load of washing every 2 days?

  • Beth

    We used disposables with my daughter, and then with my son, we decided to try cloth because of the cost savings. I absolutely LOVE them! I really don't think our kids are all going to die because of using disposables, in fact, we sometimes use them (
    we get free samples and they are a nice back up).
    Being informed of both sides of the argument is important, but then the parents need to make the decision on their own. Though, I'm not going to lie, I'm ALWAYS talking up the cloth! They seem scary at first, but once you get in a routine, it's totally worth it, and they've come such a LONG way since I was little, now they are easier to use, easier to clean, and easier/safer (no more pins have to be used) all around.
    If you're thinking about making the switch I'd say go for it! You can try them out really easily and cheaply through different companies who have special "starter" kits that can be returned if you decide it's not for you.

  • Leah  - new mom

    Thanks Thomas. I think I will stick to my cloth idea and not fall prey to the conveniences of modern disposables. I'm also reading up on "elimination communication" which functions on the premise that newborns don't enjoy wetting themselves and can tell you when they need to pee just as much as you can recognize when they're hungry. (Lord knows a poop is hard to miss with the faces they make) I think people were more motivated to change their babies and get them out of diapers back when there was cloth only.

    There are plenty of things not safe for babies that we trust others on - like the Hep B vaccine at birth (as if they're going to shoot up on the way home or something) before their immune system is developed or 3D ultrasound pummeling a delicate developing fetus with 16MHz of energy. The silly part is that the vast majority of the time, interventions and scientific advances aren't actually necessary or beneficial. Disposable diapers are great because you can leave them wet for hours! Wait...

  • Sherry

    It could also be caused by the type of diaper cover being used. I think a diaper rash would more likely happen inside of a plastic & elastic cover than in a breathable diaper cover.

  • Kathleen

    I used cloth for all three of my children, accept when visiting my mother in-law. She purchased and insisted I use only disposables at her home as she despised cloth diapers. My children always got rashes with the disposables and rarely with the cloth. Dirty diapers wrapped in plastic bags were not a problem and dealt with promptly at home. Vinegar in the final rinse is a natural whitener, softener and disinfectant. Hanging them outside to dry in the sun is also great for sanitizing. My children were breast feed and I made all my own baby food. Those cloth diapers became cleaning rags and I just wore out my last one this year. My children are now 32, 30 and 29. There are now grand babies and I have been sewing diaper flannel for them to use, if they choose. I hope this helps folks make an informed decision.

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