You may have heard by now that one of the factories which produces " about 20 percent of the world's SAP and 10 percent of global output of acrylic acid" had some pretty major explosions two days ago (ABC news). Acrylic acid is an ingredient in the making of Sodium Polyacrylate (or "SAP"), a resin which absorbs a ton of liquid (you know, that gel stuff in diapers and sanitary napkins which is linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome and so has been banned from use in tampons?)...What this means, is that the production of disposable diapers worldwide is taking a hit right now. What this also means, is that, hopefully, people will start paying attention to the dangers of disposable diapers and also will start considering the cost savings of switching to cloth diapers.
Before I go any further though, I think it's worth mentioning that one firefighter died as a result of the explosion, and 30 other people were injured. While I imagine that the world is going to focus on the "diaper crisis" momentarily, there are families that will be feeling the effects of this a lot stronger than just their pocketbook or their baby's bum.
So what is the deal with disposable diapers? We know that they're much more expensive to use overall, and that the price of them is now going to increase.
If something is on the shelves, marketed for use on babies, though, doesn't that mean it's safe? Sadly, not always. LiveStrong writes this about SAP:
"Sodium polycarbonate is a super absorbent chemical compound that is used in the fillers of many disposable diapers. It is composed of cellulose processed from trees that is mixed with crystals of polyacrylate. This chemical absorbs fluids and creates surface tension in the lining of the diaper to bind fluids and prevent leakage. Sodium polyacrylate is often visible as small gel-like crystals on the skin of babies and is thought to be linked to skin irritations and respiratory problems. This chemical was removed from tampons due to toxic shock syndrome concerns. As it has only been used in diapers for the last two decades, there is not yet research on the long-term health effects of sodium polyacrylate on babies."
Check out some of the other ingredients in disposable diapers (all information copied from LiveStrong):
- Dioxin: "According to the World Health Organization, exposure to dioxins may cause skin reactions and altered liver function, as well as impairments to the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system and reproductive functions."
- Tributyl-Tin (TBT): According to the EPA, this toxic pollutant is extremely harmful to aquatic (water) life and causes endocrine (hormonal) disruptions in aquatic organisms. TBT is a polluting chemical that does not degrade but remains in the environment and in our food chain. TBT is also an ingredient used in biocides to kill infecting organisms. Additionally, according to research published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, tributyl-tin can trigger genes that promote the growth of fat cells, causing obesity in humans.
- According to the EPA, VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system as well as cancers