Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cloth vs Disposable - Real Sustainable diapers

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.

So most people have heard about the problems parents have been having with the new pampers diapers and the lack of concern and support from pampers. Recently an article showed up on the pampers village site myths and facts

So here is my response to pampers "facts" about diapers

Myth: Cloth diapers are better for my baby.
Pampers “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

My truth: Diaper rash can happen to any baby no matter what type of diaper they are wearing. I admit my first was in disposable diapers for most of his diaper days. He didn't get diaper rash, not from Pampers not from Huggies, not from store brands, not from cloth. The boy just really does not have sensitive skin at all. My second baby on the other hand wore disposables for the first 7 months of her life, at that point she developed a bleeding, blistering, awful rash out of nowhere in a matter of two days. No changes in her diet, not teething absolutely no changes in any other aspect of her life but every time we changed her diaper it was worse and worse and she was crying and in pain and we knew we had to wash off her bum and put on cream and change her more often but it hurt her so bad that I said enough is enough. I went out to the shed and found the “cloth diaper bin” now I'll talk more about these diapers when I address the environmental aspects of this diaper debate but these were my diapers, not my diapers that I bought to use on my first child, or my diapers that I thought I would use but didn't end up putting on my kids, these were my diapers that I wore as a baby! So after a quick wash and dry I wrapped my poor baby girl in a super soft 100% cotton, 33 yr old, cloth diaper added a pair of pull on waterproof pants since that's all I had and you know what happened? In 12 hours of being in cloth the rash was better by at least half, she only had one small open sore and the rest of her diaper area was just red. In 24 hours there was just a slight discoloration left and she was no longer in any pain. At that point I put her back in a disposable for her nap, when she woke up I went to change her diaper and found it cracked open and bleeding again. So looks like my little one is allergic to pampers, maybe we'll try Huggies..... same issue, what about these really expensive “natural diapers” same problem. After doing some research I found that the one common ingredient in almost all disposable diapers is super absorbent polymers or SAP for short. One of the common SAP is sodium polyacralate. I recognized that chemical compound, where had I heard that before? Oh yes in the fake snow product I had used in a school aged daycare for a science experiment. This same stuff gave me a rash on my hands, and come to think of it I'm pretty sure it had a whole list of warnings about how to safely handle it. Back to the Internet I go to find the material fact sheet for
sodium polyacralate

ok so it says to avoid inhaling it, avoid contact with skin, rinse immediately if skin contact occurs, don't allow contact with clothing....... um haven't I been putting this next to my babies skin for the last 7 months? No wonder she got a rash. The more reading I did on the chemicals in disposables and the possible adverse effects of all these chemicals the more I wished I could back in time and never have a disposable diaper on either of my children. I just finished emptying the cupboards of any and all cups containers bottles and what not that had been recalled due to BPA and now I find out I've been swaddling my precious little baby in an entire cocktail of potentially harmful chemicals many of which have been linked to the very same type of hormone disruption not to mention infertility and cancer.
Diaper facts

Are cloth diapers better for my baby? Yes, Yes, Yes!!!


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

My truth: Ok I admit in all my research I came across this info as well, and honestly I had to shake my head, how in the world could there be no difference between the environmental impact of using a plastic diaper once and tossing it out or using the same cloth diaper over and over for years. Keep in mind the diapers I was using were 33 yrs old, my mom used them on my brother and then used them on me, then I used them part time on my son and now my daughter was wearing the very same 100% cotton diaper and the very same pull on style waterproof pants over top. Yes washing laundry takes a lot of water, but I have a spanky new HE washer and energy star water heater and dryer, and these same diapers are on their 4th child. Common sense lead me to check into the study and low and behold I find article after article about how the study was (obviously) flawed. Here is great one from whatawaste.info
flawed impact studies review

And yes I have now purchased more modern diapers and have made many new diapers from new and recycled materials as well, but I still use those now 34 yr old diapers and I will use all of our diapers on baby #3 who is due to arrive any day now, and when I'm done with diapering my kids I will keep my favorite all hemp fitted diapers to pass onto my grandkids like my mom did, the diapers in the best condition will get sold or given away and I know there will be fights between my dad and my brother over the old worn prefolds which just happen to make the best shop rags in the world. None of my babies' diapers will end up in the landfill.

Myth: Developing countries prove that cloth diapers are better than disposable diapers.
Pampers “Fact”: Our product provides key benefits in terms of skin health, dryness, and even sleep. In China, for example, we've learned that babies and parents are frequently awakened during the night each time the baby soaks the bed, because the baby has no diaper or a very thin piece of cloth. As a result, studies have shown that a disposable diaper can help a baby there get a better night's sleep. In another test, we have also seen less fecal contamination spread around the home using disposables versus cloth or nothing.
Clearly, we have a lot to learn about how to help with basic hygiene needs in countries that have very different access to clean water to wash with, and how to best dispose of products after use. We've also learned about hygiene for older children through our Always feminine care business – where in many parts of the world girls are forced to miss school one week each month during their period because they don't have enough pads or fresh water.
We are working in those regions to better understand what they do with products after use, and how to work with local agencies and other businesses to ensure the best long-term system to manage it.


My truth: ummmmm let's break this “fact” up into a few key points.

  1. "In China, for example, we've learned that babies and parents are frequently awakened during the night each time the baby soaks the bed, because the baby has no diaper or a very thin piece of cloth."

  2. - Yes this is true because it's the cultural norm to practice Elimination Communication or early potty training. This statement from Pampers is not only misleading it's also a little offensive. In China and other Asian countries Elimination Communication has been practiced for as long as time, and in fact the practice is now gaining popularity in western and European countries as well.

  3. "In another test, we have also seen less fecal contamination spread around the home using disposables versus cloth or nothing."

  4. - Is this for real? There is less fecal contamination when using disposables vs cloth or nothing. Seems to me there is quite a difference between using cloth or using nothing, so did this test compare fecal contamination levels while using disposables vs cloth and disposables vs nothing or just disposables vs cloth or nothing grouped together? If the later is true then the test is pretty meaningless, I mean of course you are going to have more fecal contamination in a household if your baby is wearing nothing, that's why we have diapers in the first place.

  5. "We've also learned about hygiene for older children through our Always feminine care business – where in many parts of the world girls are forced to miss school one week each month during their period because they don't have enough pads or fresh water."

  6. - what does this have to do with disposable diapers? Disposable pads are just another problem for women's health and the environment. I could start in on this argument but let's try to stay on topic shall we?

  7. "We are working in those regions to better understand what they do with products after use, and how to work with local agencies and other businesses to ensure the best long-term system to manage it."

  8. - We haven't been able to figure out a decent long-term system to manage the waste from disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products here in north America, how are you going to ensure proper disposal in a developing country that has fewer resources available?
Myth: Disposable diapers are harmful to the environment.
Pampers “Fact”: All of the component materials in Pampers diapers are gentle to consumers and safe for the environment. Pampers diapers are made of materials that are also frequently used in a wide range of other consumer products. We are committed to continuing to reduce our environmental impact. For example, Pampers has decreased its diaper weight by one-third and packaging weight by two-thirds. And innovative technologies, raw materials, and product design improvements have led to significant reductions in energy, water use, emissions, and waste at our plants. We are working so that our diapers in the future will have less impact on the environment than even today's diapers.

My truth: Gentle to consumers and safe for the environment. So is that the same as safe for consumers? What is considered safe for the environment? “We are working so that our diapers in the future will have less impact on the environment” But I thought you said they are safe for the environment already. Are they safe or not? Is it enough for a product to be gentle on my baby or do I need it to be safe? Are disposable Diapers harmful to the environment? No more so then a wide range of other consumer products except those other consumer products can often be recycled, oh and those other consumer products are usually not found in landfills covered in human waste, what about the environmental impact of tons of untreated urine and feces in a landfill instead of the sewer where it can be treated properly?

Myth: The materials that make up Pampers diapers are depleting our forests.
Pampers “Fact”: The pulp used in our diapers comes from well-managed forests in North America. In some cases, we source our pulp from scrap wood chips from lumber and saw mills. Our pulp suppliers are required to be certified by an independent third party as practicing sustainable forestry. Certification includes standards and criteria for replanting trees, protecting biodiversity, water, air and soil, and for obtaining broad stakeholder input into the forest management plan.

My Truth: Coming from a community and a province who's economy is very dependent on forestry I can appreciate the fact that P&G is ensuring their suppliers are engaged in sustainable forestry practices, that being said there is still a lot of demand placed on forestry to produce disposable products, and as that demand increases so does the burden on our forests. That wood could and should be used for more important things then a one time use diaper that can't be recycled.


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3 comments:

  1. Loved this post so much! I love that you used your old diapers on your baby - so lucky! Mine were used on 5 children after me, and the only ones left over after THAT were rags that I remember cleaning with as a child - long gone to nothing, by now, I'm sure. I bet yours were all quilty and soft :)

    I also appreciated the information on Sodium Polyacrylate. Interesting. Thanks!

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