Towelling Nappies – Not the enemy!

I use towelling nappies on my boys and a friend who stayed with us recently asked me if I had heard of disposable nappies.  I was a little taken back, disposables cost the earth and then you just throw them away – that doen’t make economic sense.

But more to the point it’s whats in the nappies that bugs me more the anything else.  So to help everyone understand what I’m going on about, here’s research to prove I’m not as crazy as you all think!

Ok – so what chemicals are we talking about?

No. 1 is DIOXIN – this is a highly toxic by-product of the bleaching process and is the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. Dioxin has been known to cause birth defects, skin disease and liver damage.

No. 2 is SODIUM POLYACRYLATE GEL – the stuff that does the absorbing in the nappies…if you have ever seen that clear gel-like stuff (beads) on your babies’ genitals – that’s it. This substance was banned from use in tampons in 1985 because it was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome. It is still used in disposables:

Employees in factories producing Polyacrylate suffer from female organ damage, fatigue and weight loss. No long term studies have been conducted to assess the risks of 24/7 exposure to this compound on a babies vulnerable genitals.

Due to its extreme absorbency, this chemical has been found to draw moisture from the skin, causing severe nappy rash and bleeding of perineal and scrotal tissue. Sodium Polyacrylate is also lethal to cats when inhaled.

Incidentally – it was the fact that after I had my son Hugo in 2002 that I noticed that after wearing a disposable nappy his ‘jiggly bits’ looked like little prunes which they didn’t after wearing a cloth nappy. This made me suspicious and I tried to find out ‘what was in the nappy’ to no avail since there was nothing on the packet that indicated the ingredients; another red flag…even now I wonder if a particular brand can change their content and chemical make-up overnight whether anyone would be any wiser?

No. 3 is TBT or TRIBUTYLIN – ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the most toxic substances in consumer products in the world today. The function of this chemical is to kill bacteria. Independent tests carried out by Greenpeace found that this hormone disrupting chemical was present in quantities as high as 38.4 micrograms of TBT per kilogram in Procter & Gamble’s “Pampers® Baby Dry” nappies in the belt section as well as in the inner and outer layers. They also found other organotin compounds such as DBT (Dibutylin) and MBT Monobutylin – totaling 53.2 micrograms per kilogram:

Greenpeace’s scientific test results contradict a statement by Procter & Gamble, in which the company last Friday denied that its nappies were contaminated with organotin compounds. Greenpeace toxics expert Thilo Maack said: “The reaction of Procter & Gamble is a scandal. The company is downplaying the danger instead of actively searching for the source of TBT in Pampers®. It is absolutely irresponsible to expose babies to these extremely toxic substances”.

    “Fact is that TBT is one of the most toxic substances ever made, and it is being spread through the skin and contaminates the environment as well as people,” he noted.
This environmental pollutant, which has been in the headlines for months because of its extremely high toxicity, has a hormone-like effect. The smallest concentrations of TBT can harm people’s immune systems and impair their hormonal system. “The German government must ban this toxin in all areas of use immediately,” says Thilo Maack.  

If this information is not sobering enough, if you have a boy-child, studies linking male infertility to disposable usage should really sway your thinking towards alternative nappying choices. Since disposables are lined with plastic causing an increase in scrotal temperature, impairing the normal cooling mechanisms of the testicles, it is thought that their use could affect normal scrotal development. The cells supporting sperm production are laid down in the first two years of life…the reason testes are external is that they need to be cooler than the rest of the body in order for this to happen.Studies conducted at the University of Kiel by Dr. Wolfgang Sippell, professor of paediatrics, concluded:

A prolonged increase in scrotal temperature in early childhood may have an important role in subsequent testicular health and function, with implications for male fertility.                                                    

Furthermore, “Repeated studies have shown that average sperm counts have fallen by almost half from 1938 levels and are continuing to decline as fast as 2% a year.” 

 Last but by no means least – the asthma epidemic! Lead author Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson, of Anderson Laboratories in West Hartford, Vermont, told Reuters Health that chemical emissions of some disposable diapers have immediate health effects in animals breathing the diluted chemical mixtures.  ”Upon analysis, the diaper emissions were found to include several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity,” according to the paper.Although Anderson stated that it was too early to tell whether these chemicals trigger asthma-like responses until a vast amount of human data had been accumulated, she did say the following: “Until such time as this asthma-inducing effect can be confirmed in humans, Anderson reminds parents and healthcare professionals that precaution costs nothing.  When you are dealing with a toxic chemical or chemicals, avoidance is the only proper action. She suggests that (parents) and doctors… believe themselves if they think a product is harming the breathing of the mother or the baby.” Chemicals in diapers cited as possible asthma trigger
By Penny Stern, MD                                                                                                                                                                                            SOURCE: Archives of Environmental Medicine September/October 1999.

How to Clean Cloth Diapers:

   1. Remove solid waste from the diapers by shaking it off in the toilet.
   2. Add water to the diaper pail and ½ cup of baking soda or vinegar.
   3. Soak the diapers until you’re ready to wash them.
   4. When ready to do laundry, dump the soiled water.
   5. Put diapers in washing machine.
   6. Fill with cold water and add 1/2 cup baking soda. It neutralizes the urine and helps whiten the diapers.
   7. If possible, allow diapers to soak for a while or even overnight. A pre-wash cycle also works well for this step.
   8. Then, wash the diapers in hot water using a mild detergent on a regular cycle.
   9. Rinse the diapers in cold water. You can add vinegar to the rinse cycle by pouring it down the fabric softener compartment to help make      diapers softer and fresher.
  10. Check for stains. It’s a lot easier to get them out if you catch them before they set.
  11. Some people soak their diapers for 2-3 minutes in a disinfectant solution. This could be a tea tree oil solution.
  12. Place the diapers in the dryer and dry on high heat or place in indirect sunlight to dry.

It really quite easy to change your habit of using disposable nappies, just think of how much that poop or wee cost you!

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