Friday, May 21, 2010

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies: Pampers vs Modern Cloth Diapers

This post is part of the Real Diaper Facts carnival hosted by Real Diaper Events, the official blog of the Real Diaper Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to cloth diaper education. Participants were asked to write about diaper lies and real diaper facts. See the link at the bottom of this post to read the rest of the carnival entries.

I can't seem to get the Fleetwood Mac classic "Little Lies" out of my head. You see, recently the folks at Pampers posted a "Myths and Facts" page comparing sustainable cloth diapers to single-use disposable diapers. I would like to believe they just got their myths and facts backwards, but after my recent dealings with them, I know it's just lies.

So, why do I care? My sweet son was one of the poor babies that had a negative reaction to Pampers' new DryMax "technology." At first I just thought we just needed to find another diaper--I mean, not every product will work for every consumer--but their treatment of my complaint, as well as the way they have treated other parents, has really irritated me. Now they are telling lies...and I'm going to tell you the truths!

Myth: Disposable diapers are harmful to the environment.
Fact: All of the component materials in Pampers diapers are gentle to consumers and safe for the environment. Pampers diapers are made of materials that are also frequently used in a wide range of other consumer products. We are committed to continuing to reduce our environmental impact. For example, Pampers has decreased its diaper weight by one-third and packaging weight by two-thirds. And innovative technologies, raw materials, and product design improvements have led to significant reductions in energy, water use, emissions, and waste at our plants. We are working so that our diapers in the future will have less impact on the environment than even today’s diapers.

Truth: Waste is waste, and waste is not good for the environment. Single-use disposable diapers make up 1/3 of American landfills. Disposable diapers also take 250-500 years to decompose. Pampers may have reduced its diaper weight, but the SAP (super absorbent polymers) swells and turns into gel upon getting wet, thus increasing the overall size of the diaper. Also, describing the materials as "gentle to consumers and safe for the environment" is not entirely accurate. Sodium polyacrylate, a common SAP, is known to increase the likelihood of developing toxic shock syndrome. The chlorine bleaching process used in disposable diaper production causes dioxins, which are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders. I don't know how either of these items are gentle or could possibly be safe for our environment when they are dumped into landfills. Right now we are in the middle of an oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico--I think it is important to point out that it takes 2/3 cup of oil to create one disposable diaper. Americans use 18 billion disposable diapers each year, requiring over 3.5 billion gallons of oil to produce--that's more oil than the U.S. imports from Kuwait annually.

Pampers Myth: Cloth diapers are better for my baby.
Pampers Fact: Disposable diapers like Pampers were developed to offer babies benefits that cloth diapers could not meet. That goes beyond convenience to helping keep babies’ skin dryer and more comfortable by reducing leaks and locking wetness inside the diaper in a way that cloth doesn’t. As a result, doctors and parents simply don’t see the same level of diaper rash that used to exist before disposable diapers.

Truth: Much like single-use disposable diapers have changed over the years, so have sustainable cloth diapers. It is no longer fair or accurate to advertise disposable diapers as having "benefits that cloth diapers could not meet." Modern advancements in textiles and detergents have eliminated the cloth diaper problems of the past. Absorbent hemps and bamboos and moisture-wicking microfibers have become the norm in today's modern cloth diaper, virtually eliminating leaks and excess wetness. Rubber pants are a thing of the past, and have been replaced with breathable, natural fibers, which have reduced the instance of diaper rash. There are detergents on the market today that prevent build-up and are free of irritants. Detergent build-up is responsible for absorbency and leakage issues, while irritants such as dyes, perfumes, and enzymes are known to cause discomfort and rashes.

Pampers Myth: Developing countries prove that cloth diapers are better than disposable diapers.
Pampers “Fact”: Our product provides key benefits in terms of skin health, dryness, and even sleep. In China, for example, we've learned that babies and parents are frequently awakened during the night each time the baby soaks the bed, because the baby has no diaper or a very thin piece of cloth. As a result, studies have shown that a disposable diaper can help a baby there get a better night's sleep. In another test, we have also seen less fecal contamination spread around the home using disposables versus cloth or nothing.

Truth: You can not compare cloth diapers in developing countries to the cloth diapers available in the United States. Pampers even states "the baby has no diaper or a very thin piece of cloth," which is not symbolic of the plush layers of bamboo and organic cotton found in modern cloth diapers available in the U.S. In my personal experience, my son sleeps better in cloth diapers than disposable. My son never slept more than 6 hours in a disposable, but quickly began sleeping to 10-11 hours a night once he was in a cloth diaper--and I should note this increase happened in a period of 2 weeks in a 2 month old baby. Yes, you read that correctly, my son started sleeping 10-11 hours at night while wearing a cloth diaper when he was only 10 weeks old. I can not comment on the fecal contamination statement except to say poop gets flushed down the toilet in my house.

Pampers Myth: The materials that make up Pampers diapers are depleting our forests.
Pampers "Fact": The pulp used in our diapers comes from well-managed forests in North America. In some cases, we source our pulp from scrap wood chips from lumber and saw mills. Our pulp suppliers are required to be certified by an independent third party as practicing sustainable forestry. Certification includes standards and criteria for replanting trees, protecting biodiversity, water, air and soil, and for obtaining broad stakeholder input into the forest management plan.

Truth: Pampers has reduced the amount of wood pulp in their DryMax diaper to nearly non-existant quantities. Boasting of "well-managed" forests and "certification" is not relative to their current diaper design, rather they are just environmentally-friendly words an unknowing consumer might be impressed by.

What it really boils down to is this: as parents, we are responsible for everything we put on or in our child. Take the time to really learn what is in the consumer products you are purchasing, and don't just take the manufacturers word for it. Use your best judgement in choosing the items that will leave your family healthy, happy, and green. It just so happens that sustainable cloth diapers are the best choice for my family.

For further reading, I recommend the Z Recommends 4-Part series on Pampers DryMax.

I researched this blog topic using the following articles and websites:
Real Diaper Association - Diaper Facts
What a Waste
Eco Etiquette: How Can I Convince My Husband to Use Cloth Diapers? by Jennifer Grayson

Please visit the Real Diaper Association to learn more about this blog carnival and read other posts.

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