Are Cloth Diapers More Environmentally Friendly?

February 08, 2010 :: Posted by - Summer :: Green Living, Parenting :: (5) Comments

Ring of Cloth Diapers
Creative Commons License photo credit: tiffanywashko

Cloth diapers have been the only choice mothers have had for centuries. With the arrival of the disposable diaper in 1940, parenting was turned on its head. Parents were freed from the constant need to wash and dry diapers ever day, instead they could simply toss out a used diaper and put on a fresh cleaning one. However, many parents are now returning to cloth diapers for environmental and health issues. Are cloth diapers really better than the disposable ones?

The average child will go through almost 6,000 diapers in their lifetime. That is a lot of dirty diapers, all of which will eventually find their way into a landfill. These diapers can take up to 500 years to fully decompose, slowly leaking chemicals into the ground as they do so. Cloth diapers, however, are washed and reused several times before being retired. Less trash and fewer chemicals making their way into the world is always a good thing.

Many people who are against cloth diapers point out that the amount of water used to wash diapers could be harmful to the environment. This would be true, if it were not for the fact that disposable diapers also require large amounts of water in the manufacturing process. This water is also filled with bleach and excess chemicals that are used in turning wood pulp into a white, paper diaper. Many of the detergents used to wash cloth diapers are considered safe for the environment when they are washed out, the same cannot be said of the disposable manufacturing process.

Cloth diapers not only have a positive effect on the environment, they can also have a positive effect on children’s health. Each of those 6,000 diapers that a child wears contains significant amounts of harsh chemicals. These chemicals are against your child’s sensitive skin each day, and have been linked to cancers in some studies.

Dioxin, a chemical byproduct of the wood pulp bleaching process, can be found in disposable diapers and is considered a cancer causing agent by the Environmental Protection Agency. The chemicals used to increase absorbency have been known to cause skin irritation, rashes, and pinpricks of blood in the genital area. Cloth diapers contain none of these dangers.

Parents who choose cloth diapers are not facing the same concerns that older generations had. New diapers are available in a vast assortment of styles and options. Some have thin plastic layers to prevent leaks, others allow space for removable inserts that add absorbency and protection. Cloth diapers can be purchased with snaps, Velcro, and simple plastic fasteners. Modern cloth diapering parents have a world of options to choose from.

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5 Responses to “Are Cloth Diapers More Environmentally Friendly?”

  1. Valerie Reddemann Says:

    A few other benefits of choosing cloth diapers over disposables are:
    1. Better for baby. Less skin issues and less chemicals touching their sensitive skin
    2. Cost. Investing in cloth diapers (a few hundred dollars) is much cheaper than purchasing disposables which end up being over $1500 on average (not to mention all the trash).

    The key with cloth is becoming educated from experienced parents on how to use them and care for them. It’s just a matter of knowledge.

    Valerie Reddemann

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