The Risk of Diapers and Pads

Are there Hazards with disposable pads?

There are several favourable points when considering switching to a non-disposable option for incontinence pads or diapers.

The environmental issue of non-biodegradable waste would be a good strong reason for considering the use of something like washable panties.

Disposable diapers and disposable pads are one of the items filling up our landfills at the greatest speed and they take many years to break down.

A lifestyle of convenience, and cleanliness is the main reason for using disposable napkins and pads.

However synthetic, single-use diapers often contain chemicals linked to long-term health conditions. A study published in 1999 in Archives of Environmental Health maintains disposable diapers should be considered to be a factor that may exacerbate asthma and respiratory problems.

The skin around the uro-genital area is softer and sensitive skin which if exposed to harsh chemicals in diapers can cause rashes and allergic reactions .This is particularly so with babies ,but also with adults as well.This irritation may be highlighted more when the pad or diaper becomes wet.If the different chemicals leaching out of the disposable product when wet may mean there is a greater opprtunity for them to enter the skin layer.

Sodium polyacrylate is a super absorbent chemical used in the inner absorbent product of many disposable diapers. It is composed of cellulose processed from trees mixed with crystals of polyacrylate.
Polyacrylate absorbs fluids to create a tension in the lining of the diaper which binds fluids to prevent leaking from them.

Sodium polyacrylate looks like small jelly-like crystals .If you tear a diaper apart they are visible ,but their toxic elements have been linked to skin irritations and can cause respiratory issues in babies and adults.

Originally polyacrylate was used in tampons, but removed some years ago after as it was believed to cause toxic shock syndrome with many women. There is currently no evidence to indicate if these toxins cause any long term effects or not when used as diapers for humans.

Disposable diapers frequently contain chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These include chemicals not limited to; xylene, ethyl benzene and toluene. These toxic chemicals can cause ; eye,nose and throat irritations, headaches, damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system disorders as well as cancers.

Another chemical compound in many disposable diapers is tributyl-tin (TBT). This toxic pollutant is extremely harmful to aquatic water life .causing hormonal imbalances in aquatic organisms.

TBT is also a polluting chemical which does not degrade but remains in the environment and in our food chain for a considerable period of time. It is also can kill infecting organisms and trigger genes promoting the growth of fat cells and causing obesity in humans.

Other Chemicals often used in disposable diapers include dyes, fragrances, plastics and petrolatums. Adhesive chemicals are used in the sticky tabs to close the diapers and dyes are used to color and make the patterns and labels that mark diapers. Perfumes and fragrances are used in some disposable diapers to help mask odors

Air Circulation
The backing on disposable pads greatly reduces air circulation, creating a stagnant environment in which some bacteria thrive. This can cause odour and exacerbate any pre-existing vaginal irritation. This plastic sheeting can also generate: perspiration, sometimes rashes and other irritations, and can leave you more susceptible to yeast infections. Many women report allergic reactions to disposable pads, most likely caused by bleaching residues. Combined this with different chemicals to create an optimum environment for a wide range of health problems to arise.


In the USA House Resolution (HR) 890, named the Tampon Safety and Research Act of 1999, reported “Dioxin is a byproduct of chlorine-beaching processes used in the manufacture of paper products, including tampons, sanitary pads, panty liners and diapers." They further point out the effects of dioxin are cumulative and may stay in the body for 20 years after exposure.

The World Health Organization lists dioxin as one of the "dirty dozen - a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants." Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to cervical cancer, breast cancer, endometriosis, and immune system suppression. There is much scientific debate as to whether there is such a thing as a “safe level” of dioxin exposure. Low levels of dioxin have been found in almost every major brand of tampon (except 100% organic cotton).

Most women are aware of the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome with prolonged tampon use. What many women do not know is that the bacterium that causes TSS is naturally occurring in menstrual blood. When the flow of menstruation is cut off and held in the body, this bacterium has the opportunity to proliferate to toxic levels. TSS can cause serious physical impairment and even death.

Reusable panties are worth considering for the cost-disposable diapers costs can add up quickly with the average Australian women spending between $700.00 -$1000 a year on pads and diapers.

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