Is the Polyurethane in Diapers Safe for Babies?
Parenthood is full of tough choices, nothing but, it sometimes seems. Even the simplest of things, like deciding what kind of diapers to use, can be daunting. When it comes to diapers, the options are endless and it seems whatever the choice, most moms feel passionately about it. Whether you choose to cloth diaper, use disposables or go hard core with elimination communication, someone will always have an opposing opinion. The best choice is made after doing research and finding out what options suit your family best.
The main arguments for cloth diapers are that they are more affordable, better for a baby's skin and do not fill up landfills 1. Cloth diapers come in a variety of absorbencies and textures, and you have the option of a pocket, fitted, all-in-one or prefold 1. Much like disposables, they are often fitted or contoured and usually close with hook-and-loop closures or snaps. Because they do not suck away the moisture like disposables do, they have to be changed more frequently. The Diapering Doula explains that diaper covers or diaper wraps are made of waterproof or moisture-resistent material. They are either built into a diaper, as with an all-in-one, or they are separate from the absorbent inner part of the diaper, as with prefold diapers. If separate, the cover can be used more than once, if it did not become soiled by the diaper's contents. This is where the polyurethane laminate or thermoplastic polyurethane comes in, as these materials are typically what the outer layers are are made from.
Disposable diapers may seem quick and simple, but there are still a number of things to consider, including the health risks 14. Disposables are bound together by hot melts and have an have an outer shell and an inner tissue. What makes them absorbent is the hydrogels, or polymers, which can absorb up to 100 times their weight. The World Health Organization expresses concern with the primary ingredients in hydrogels -- the acrylic acid and acrylamide, also called sodium polyacrylate 6. Acrylamide causes cancer in animals and may cause nerve damage in humans. While cloth diapers use covers that contain potentially harmful chemicals, there is a layer of fabric protecting against direct contact with baby's skin 1. In disposables, the chemicals directly touch a baby's skin and may be linked to long-term health conditions, such as asthma and respiratory problems. They may also cause rashes or allergic reactions.
Polyurethane in Diapers
Polyurethane is the main waterproofing element in cloth diaper covers -- usually in the form of a polyurethane laminate, where a fabric has a polyurethane coating chemically bonded to make it waterproof. DiaperPin.com suggests that the substance could be dangerous, as it is made from petroleum and other chemicals. It is not a breathable fabric, which can lead to irritation and sensitivities due to lack of airflow. The Little Spruce Organics website states that polyurethane laminate is an inert material, so in order for it to release harmful chemicals it would need to be heated to extremely high temperatures, so most cloth diaper covers are considered “safe." 7
There are several alternatives to polyurethane. Lanolised wool, nylon and polyester are all natural and safer alternatives. There are no worrisome chemicals and they are natural alternatives. Sometimes natural just won't cut it and you need a little something more, well, baby proof. Ultrex is a chemically bonded material that releases very little chemical residue. It is made of a cottony fabric that is coated with a micro-porous polytetrafluoroethylene membrane, and it is breathable. However, if you are looking for something natural, Ultrex is not the way to go, as the safety of polytetrafluoroethylene can be questioned just like polyurethane.
- Kids Health: Cloth Diapers
- Happy Bottoms: PUL, TPU, or Nylon?
- HealthyChildren.org: Diapers: Disposable or Cloth?
- CBC News: Disposable diapers: Are they dangerous?
- Diaper Pin: Artificial Materials and Cloth Diapering
- World Health Organization: Dioxins and Their Effects on Human Health
- Little Spruce Organics: Organic Cloth Diapering
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