Mother Earth Living

Reusable Diapers Save Money

One disposable diaper can outlive your children’s great-great grandchildren.
By Michelle Madderom
March/April 2002
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Every new baby needs more than 5,000 diaper changes. Most of these diapers are disposable and end up buried in the local dump. In fact, 90 percent of American parents cover their children with plastic, non-breathable diapers that may contain toxins. Approximately 18 billion of these—enough to go to the moon and back seven times—are thrown away each year. Up to 12 percent of the total trash in the United States can be attributed to disposable diapers.

The various types of plastic in these diapers are not only toxic to the environment, but are possibly harmful to a baby’s skin. Some diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a super absorbent gel, and polyethylene film, a flexible plastic. The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that exposure to these ingredients may lead to problems later in life with the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver—and they also spell trouble for local landfills where the diapers are likely to remain for up to 500 years. Toxic human feces can leak into local water supplies and cause viruses such as Hepatitis A and Rota Virus.

What are the alternatives?

Parents who select reusable cloth diapers save $300 a year in diapering costs. Cloth diapers, which range in price from $17 to $27 for a set of six, can withstand 80 to 100 washings. After that, they can be recycled into household rags. If you still long for the ease and convenience of disposable diapers, or you’re more concerned about the water required to wash cotton diapers than the issue of toxicity, shop around. Some conscientious diaper companies have stopped using so much plastic and have replaced the absorbent gel with a blend of cotton, wood pulp and other natural products.

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