My grandma sent me a link today about an upcoming disposable diaper shortage. Apparently, an explosion at a Japanese chemical plant this weekend will leave the world in short supply of acrylic acid, a critical ingredient in disposable diapers. My first concern was about the people near the explosion: sadly, 1 firefighter died and 34 more were injured. My second thought was: what in the hell is acrylic acid, and why is it used in baby diapers?
I did a little research into acrylic acid. It is a colorless liquid with a tart smell, which sounds rather benign. It is a byproduct of gasoline production, and it is used in diapers because “it is a key component of superabsorbent polymers or SAP, which absorb large amounts of liquid.” In other words, it can keep a lot of pee in a disposable diaper.
Low exposure to acrylic acid will cause minimal or no health effects, but significant exposure can cause lung disease. Acrylic acid is extremely irritating and corrosive to both skin and respiratory tract, and contact with the eye may result in severe and irreversible injury. I have to wonder: is it a good idea to keep this stuff so close to babies’ skin for 24 hours a day for 2-3+ years?! As far as I know, no studies have been done to examine what impact - if any – the chemicals in disposable diapers might have on the health of babies.
Every day I feel grateful for the choice we made to use cloth diapers. Cloth diapering is not nearly as scary or overwhelming or gross as most people assume. In reality, its two extra loads of laundry a week. That’s it. Our grandmothers did it, and so can we.
To learn more about getting started with cloth diapers, check out my Cloth Diapering Manifesto: http://homemademothering.com/2009/09/the-cloth-diapering-manifesto.html
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