Disposable diapers seem like a magic solution to dealing with your baby's bowel movements. They're compact, absorbent and can be thrown in the garbage when you are done. However, disposable diapers are not as harmless as they appear on the surface. Disposable diapers are costly, contain potentially harmful chemicals and wreak havoc on the environment from the moment they are made until they are disposed of.
Proctor & Gamble, the company that manufactures the Pampers line of diapers, estimates that it costs parents $1,500 per year to diaper a child at a rate of six changes per day. These costs increase if you buy more expensive diapers or need to change your baby more often, such as when he gets a stomach bug that requires a change every hour. The costs continue to accumulate until your child is completely potty-trained.
Chemicals are a concern for any parent that uses disposable diapers. The chemical sodium polyacrylate is found in disposable diapers and can absorb up to 1,000 times its weight, which makes the diaper able to hold so much urine. This is what those beads are that might appear in your child's diaper after a long night. This chemical has the potential to cause skin and lung irritation and redness of the eyes. If the paper used to make the diapers is bleached first, it can contain the chemical dioxin, which has been linked directly to cancer. Lotions on the inside of the diaper lining also have the potential to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have also been identified as cancer-causing chemicals. Diaper manufacturers are also not subjected to government controls on chemical use.
The chemicals used in disposable diapers are located in one of the most sensitive areas on your baby's skin. Some parents might leave their baby in a diaper longer than usual to save money due to the high costs of disposable diapers, which increases skin irritation and the chances of leaks. It may also be harder to potty-train your child if you use disposables because he doesn't feel the wetness as well and is content to sit in a wet diaper longer.
Disposable diapers are extremely hazardous to the environment. Scientists estimate that diapers can take up to or longer than 500 years to decompose with exposure to sunlight. Diapers buried under other garbage can take even longer. The UK Environment Agency and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs notes that disposable diapers create approximately 40 percent more damage to the environment than cloth diaper alternatives. The Good Human Plastic also mentions that disposables use 20 times more raw materials, three times more energy, two times more water and generate 60 times more solid waste than cloth diapers.