Disposable diapers, a health risk?

Much has been said about the use of toxic components in personal hygiene products for babies and this year the magnifying glass is once again focused on one of the most essential, disposable diapers. But, before we know what the new studies show, let’s learn a little about the history of diapers.

diapers of yesteryear

For centuries, babies used cloth diapers that simply consisted of rectangles that had to be placed rigorously so that the folds would fit well and there would be no big leaks, and that were fixed with tweezers with which the baby could be pricked, or the mother always ended up pricking herself.

In the same way, these reusable diapers had to be washed daily, many housewives soaked the fabrics to be able to loosen the stool and rub them by hand because they did not have washing machines, in short, it was a job that took up part of the day.

It was in the 1940s that the first disposable diapers made of a cellulose sheet that absorbed liquids were designed in Sweden. For its part, the United States invented the outer layer that prevented the passage of stools to the outside. Already by 1950, the use of disposable diapers was limited to high society, people with high purchasing power, they were also used only on special occasions and that for the time it represented a luxurious advance, to which people of lower or middle class did not. they had access.

The following years were of innovation and development for the disposable diaper industry due to the competition between the large multinationals that wanted to position themselves in this market and we can see the result today. There are hundreds of brands around the world, some recognized more than others for the quality of their products and that have remained in the preference of consumers.

diaper alerts

For years there has been talk of the terrible environmental impact that diapers have, because due to their chemical components and derivatives, they need decades to fully decompose, being one of the main pollutants on the planet. Still, many sustainable alternatives have emerged to offer fast-decomposing products, but have failed to position themselves with high sales.

However, since January this year, the debate has focused on the long-term impact of diapers on children’s health, since France’s environmental agency, Anses, published a study stating that numerous toxic and potentially health-hazardous substances in disposable diapers in this country.

A total of 60 components were identified by the environmental agency in diapers, among which there are pesticides such as hexachlorobenzene, lindane and Quintocene that are currently prohibited in the European Union. Glyphosate, a potentially carcinogenic herbicide, was also identified. All these ingredients can be absorbed by the skin and produce, in the long term, from allergies and chafing to, in the most extreme cases, some type of cancer.

For this reason, the French Ministers of Health, Agnès Buzyn, of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, and of Ecological Transition, François de Rugy met with the manufacturers of the best baby diapers to strongly demand the immediate replacement of these substances in products, or at least a considerable reduction.

Although the names of the companies involved were not revealed, both the Minister of Health, Buzyn, and the representatives of EDANA, the association of diaper manufacturers in Europe, assured the public that no diaper on the market represents an immediate danger to children. children, so there is no risk of continuing to use them.

And in Spain?

On the other hand, in Spain the Ministry of Health declared that it had no information in this regard. This omission is due to the fact that, according to the Organization of Consumers and Users, diaper factories are not required to report on the toxicity of the components they use, unlike cosmetic manufacturers.

It was the OCU that in 2015 published a study carried out on 13 brands of diapers for babies from 9 to 24 months, which showed that anthracene and naphthalene were used in 4 of these brands, two hydrocarbons with aromatic purposes but with negative effects on health. And although in the brands involved the levels of these components were below the established range, there were two that had higher levels compared to the other remaining ones.

In contrast to these results, EDANA maintains that no diaper marketed in the European Union has not exceeded the safety thresholds established by the corresponding entities, so they are safe to use. However, Anses demands to eliminate the use of perfumed substances that are the most vulnerable to skin reactions, as well as to strengthen the control of the natural raw materials used and ensure their sustainability to reduce the environmental impact of these products.

what alternatives are there

As parents we recognize that these studies are alarming, even when they claim that they do not cause immediate harm. That is why as responsible citizens we have some options that we can take to minimize these risks and the easiest is the ecological diaper.

These alternative products have nothing to do with the diapers of 100 years ago. On the contrary, their design has improved in such a way that they are very easy to put on, some have the same design as panties and use washable or disposable padding inside, which are responsible for absorbing the liquids and feces of the child.

The briefs are completely machine washable, and their size adjusts to the size of the baby, so they become a long-lasting option, savings for your budget, more safety for the environment, but above all for the health of your child. child.

If this idea does not convince you, you can opt for ecological disposable diapers made from bamboo fiber and other renewable materials, which do not use perfumed or chemical agents that can produce an allergic reaction on your baby’s skin, nor do they make it vulnerable. develop some kind of more serious disease in the future.

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