Most mothers don’t think twice before putting that disposable diaper on their baby’s bottom. I reckon they should give it some serious thought, don’t you? They ought to think about where those diapers end up when thrown away. They should also think about how long that diaper will stay where it’s going when they throw it away and they should consider what all the ‘wonderful’ chemicals in the diaper does to their little ones and the environment they have to live in.

Consider the effect it has on your baby.

Let’s consider the effects it has on your baby first as that would lay closest to your heart. The chemicals, perfumes, paper and plastic in disposable diapers causes a host of allergic reactions in babies. The unnatural fibers rubbing against their delicate skins cause nappy rash and other reactions.

German researchers found, (in an article published in the October 2000 issue of the Disease in Childhood medical journal) that the scrotal skin temperatures of baby boys were much higher when they wore disposable diapers than when they wore cloth. The article suggested that long-term use of disposable diapers was an important contributing factor in the decline of sperm production among adult males.

Chemicals in diapers.

A relatively new chemical used in diapers is Polyacrylate gel. This new chemical has not been around long enough for us to be sure of its long-term health effects. It has been, however, suspected of worsening asthma, and even causing it.

Disposable diapers are also stuffed full of dioxins; most of us know that these are baddies. Experiments have shown that they have an adverse effect on a number of organs and systems in the human body. They can cause skin lesions, alter liver function, impair the immune system as well as the nervous system, the endocrine system, reproductive functions and even cause cancer! (

Other materials/chemicals found in disposable diapers are chlorine, voc’s (volatile organic compounds), polyethylene and polypropylene plastic with bleached paper pulp, AGM (a gelling substance), petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, elastic, and perfume. All of these cause various health problems, from respetory and brain function to cancer.

Environmental impact.

Ok, now as if these weren’t enough reasons to never touch those disposables, let’s consider their environmental impact.

Research shows that disposable diapers for just one baby will produce over two tons of non-biodegradable waste. 18 billion disposable diapers are used in the U.S. alone each year. Enough to stretch to the moon and back 9 times! If you include the rest of the world, that figure will surely double. A disposable diaper can take up to 500 years to biodegrade and in actual fact, who knows how long it takes since the first diaper made has yet to degrade….

They fill up our landfill sites, which are already under too much strain. Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, superseded only by newspapers and food and beverage containers. Not to mention the fact that human feces and urine gets added to the heap. This all culminates to contaminate our groundwater and spreads disease! Disposable diaper packages have a request printed on the outside of the package that the inner diapers be rinsed and the fecal material flushed down the toilet before the diapers are put into the trash. Not that anybody pays heed to this!  With cloth diapers however, this is a given.

The processes used to manufacture these diapers consume massive amounts of wood pulp, water, chlorine, oil, energy and other chemicals and the water used gets contaminated with dangerous chemicals. These chemicals eventually end up in our waterways, rivers, dams and seas. Another byproduct of the industry is many different dangerous gasses that pollute the air we breathe.

The Landbank Consultancy reassessed the information gathered from studies performed by Procter & Gamble and other research on the impact of processing both disposable and cloth diapers, and concluded the following: Disposable diapers create 2.3 times as much water waste, use 3.5 times more energy, use 8.3 times more non-regenerable raw materials, use 90 times the renewable raw materials and 4 to 30 times as much land for growing raw materials.

To conclude, the negatives surrounding disposable diapers are just too many to ignore. There are cloth alternatives that are nothing like the square pieces of cloth our mothers used. They are cute, easy to use, leak resistant, absorbent and healthier. And not nearly as much effort as you might think it is. I will definitely go the cloth route when my first one arrives!


Aloha! I'm Carien. I live in South Africa in an area called the Swartland (Black Land). I live on a small holding (Homestead) and I am a full time house wife with one husband (yes, only one), one son, one dog, a few sheep and plenty of chickens. Living as natural as possible is a passion of mine. Inclined to a mostly organic vegetarian diet I tend to post healthy food recipes, green tips and information on natural and organic and natural living.

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