Less toxic diapers for seniors and babies
UPdate Fall 2007

"My 81 year old mother, who has to wear adult diapers, is suffering from a constantly drippy nose. I have had the same problem when holding or caring for a baby that is wearing disposable diapers. Do you know what brand she would most likely have the least trouble with? I am thinking that the problem is chemical and not latex--though latex also causes problems. I would appreciate any input."

EHANS responded:

Hi Debbie,
I have included information from the Guide to Less Toxic Products about the harmful ingredients in disposable diapers. The only disposable diaper we list in the Guide to Less Toxic Products is Seventh Generation. I don't know whether they have adult sizes.

Many diaper services do have adult size cloth diapers. That may be the best option for your mother.

Good luck,

Barb Harris,
Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia

Harmful ingredients:
Dye, fragrance, plastic, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, dipentene

Disposable diapers consist of a plastic exterior, an inner super-absorbent layer treated with chemicals, and a liner. One commonly used absorbent chemical, sodium polyacrylate, can trigger allergic reactions. Disposable diapers may also contain dyes and dioxin, a carcinogenic by-product of the chlorine bleaching process.

A study conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999, published in the Archives of Environmental Health, found that disposable diapers release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene. All of these VOCs have been shown to have toxic health effects, such as cancer and brain damage, with long-term or high level exposure.

The researchers also discovered that mice exposed to the chemicals released by disposable diapers were more likely to experience irritated airways than mice exposed to emissions from cloth diapers. These effects were increased during repeat exposures. The authors suggested that disposable diapers may cause "asthma-like" reactions and urged more study into a possible link between diaper emissions and asthma.

Excerpted from The Guide to Less Toxic Products, http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca.