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Dangerous Chemicals in Disposable Diapers

Disposable diapers are the need and necessity of almost every parent. However, disposable diapers are not as safe as most parent imagines.

Some disposable diaper contains dangerous chemicals that can have long term effects on health conditions. The worst health problems caused by disposable diapers can be asthma and respiratory problems. Chemicals present in disposable diapers can cause allergic reactions to the sensitive and soft skin of the babies. 

Major Dangerous Chemicals in Diapers

Some major and dangerous chemicals in diapers are given-below:

Dangerous Chemicals

  • Dioxins
  • To give white color to disposable diapers, they are bleached with chlorine. As a result of bleaching, the byproduct is known as dioxin, and it is leached into diapers and the environment.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to dioxins can result in skin allergies, impairment to the immune system, nervous system, reproductive functions, and can alter the liver function. So, continuous exposure to dioxins can result in serious health issues. 

    According to EPA, less potent forms of dioxins are found in tampons and diapers. However, it was concluded that they were in trace amount and does not increase the overall dioxin exposure for the USA.

  • Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP)
  • SAP has been used in disposable diapers since the ’80s. To enhance the absorption power, these little crystals are sprinkled over the absorbent core. These crystals help to trap the fluid such as urine or poop.


    These crystals are known by several names such as sodium Polyacrylate, hydrogel, and Polyacrylate absorbents. Although these crystals are small in size, they can absorb a significant amount of liquid. A more surprising thing about SAP is not only the well-known brands are using it, but almost all the disposable diaper brands are using SAP to enhance absorbency.  Some concerns about SAP are given below:

    • No sufficient testing has been done to ensure that SAP is safe to use and non-toxic. 
    • SAP nowadays is derived from petroleum, and it contains chemicals that can be a point of concern. 
    • In the recent past, SAP was linked to toxic shock syndrome. 

    According to some researches, there was not enough evidence found to prove that SAP is toxic and dangerous for humans. Disposable diaper manufacturers claim that SAP is safe to use, and on long term exposure, there will be no serious health issues.  

  • Sodium Polyacrylate
  • It is used in fillers of disposable diapers. It is known for its extra absorbing ability; that’s why it is used in almost all disposable diapers.

    sodium Polyacrylate

    Crystals of Polyacrylate are mixed with cellulose that is processed from trees. The purpose of this chemical is to prevent leakage, and it is used in the liners of disposable diapers. You might see the gel-like crystals attached to the skin of the baby.

    These small crystals can result in respiratory problems and skin allergies. It has been used in disposable diapers for the last two decades, but no research has been performed to check the long term effects of sodium Polyacrylate on the skin and health of babies. 

  • Tributyl-tin (TBT)
  • Most of the disposable diapers contain this chemical. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this chemical is extremely harmful to the water and caused hormonal disruptions in organisms that are living in the water. TBT is dangerous because it does not degrade, and it continuously remains in our food chain and the environment. It is also used in biocides to kill the infecting organisms. Moreover, TBT can trigger genes and can cause obesity in humans because it promotes the growth of fat cells. 

  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Almost all disposable diapers contain chemicals known as volatile organic compounds. VOCs contain chemicals such as toluene, xylene, dipentene, and ethylbenzene. According to an environmental protection agency, exposure to VOCs can cause eye, throat, and nose irritation. Moreover, it can cause damage to the kidney, liver, and nervous system. Some VOCs can also cause cancer in humans. 

  • Phthalates 
  • As mentioned earlier, along with other chemicals, some plastic materials are also present. A plastic ingredient that is used in disposable diapers is phthalate, and it is the concern for the parents. The question is why phthalates are used? These are plasticizers that are used to increase the flexibility, durability, and transparency of the plastic. Another function of phthalates is to soften the plastic that’s why these are often used in shampoos and lotions. 

    In disposable diapers, phthalates are used to act as waterproof liners. These are not tightly bonded to the plastic, so when they are leached with liquid, these are released into the air.  Phthalates are not only limited to liners in disposable diapers, but these are often used in children’s toys, cosmetics, and personal care products as well. It has been noticed that not all the diaper brands are using phthalates, but it is challenging to identify which brands are using.  

    Other Chemicals

    Some other chemicals are also used in disposable diapers such as fragrances, dyes, petrolatum, and plastic. For stickiness, adhesive chemicals are used in sticky tabs. To make diapers more attractive, dyes are used to make labels and marks on disposable diapers. To prevent odor, some fragrances and perfumes are also used in disposable diapers. 


    Disposable diapers are need of the time. These are easy to carry and easy to use. Almost everything that has advantages might have disadvantages as well. The same is the case with disposable diapers. You can use them to keep your home and clothes clean, but at the same time, these diapers can be dangerous for the health of babies. Disposable diapers contain some dangerous chemicals that can cause some severe health problems. 

    Chemicals are used to enhance absorption. These crystals come in contact with the skin of babies and can cause allergic reactions. Some chemicals are used to enhance stickiness. Some fragrances and dyes also present in the diapers. These chemicals are not only dangerous for the health of the baby, but these are also harmful to the environment as well. Almost all the brands are using these chemicals, so it is hard to tell which brand’s diapers are safe for use. 

    Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form

    Sky Hoon
    Family Man. He is a family man and married with 1 child. Spent countless nights changing diaper and surprised how outdated diapers are. Nevertheless, there is no solution yet as a parent, just want to research more about diapers.
    Read His Personal Blog

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