The Poop on Eco-Friendly Diapers

Whether cloth or disposable, Huggies or Pampers, any diaper is a hazard

| April 29, 2004

Whole Foods may sell fair-trade coffee and potatoes that you can be sure are not gene-spliced, but when it comes to diapers, your baby presents an environmental hazard no matter what you buy. 'Diapering is arguably the most important decision parents could make for the environment and their young children, who are in diapers around the clock for upward of two years,' Elisa Batista writes for Wired News. But, contrary to popular belief, biodegradable disposable diapers 'aren't much better for the environment or the health of her baby than the Huggies and Pampers piled up in landfills.'

John A. Shiffert, executive director of the National Association of Diaper Services, reports the sobering facts: the average baby goes through 5,000 diapers before being potty-trained, and most of those are disposable diapers that end up in landfills. These diapers made up 2.1 percent of all garbage in the United States in 1998, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And they don't break down in airtight landfills -- not even biodegradable ones. 'Environmentally [biodegradable] diapers require as much water, energy, and fuel to produce as any other single-use diaper,' according to the latest newsletter from the cloth diaper service Tiny Tots. 'The bottom line is they offer no environmental or health benefits.'

One reason for young parents to sleep sounder at night, however, is the guarantee that neither cloth nor disposable diapers will harm their babies. Despite the mini-scare campaign launched by cloth diaper services and some researchers, 'there is no evidence that sufficient traces of the chemicals remain on the [disposable] diapers to harm babies.'
-- Jacob Wheeler

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