My Story of Cloth Diapering
Sounds nasty doesn't it? Sounds like a pain in the HINEY! Time consuming, extra work, and just plain disgusting.
Now, lets face the facts. (Facts are numbered, and sources are listed in the link provided below)
Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S..1
Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.2
Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbency tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome by increasing absorbency and improving the environment for the growth of toxin-producing bacteria.3
In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis (causing infertility issues).18
They've concluded that disposable diapers create 2.3 times as much water waste, use 3.5 times as much energy, use 8.3 times the non-regenerable raw materials, use 90 times the renewable raw materials and 4 to 30 times as much land for growing raw materials. The Landbank Consultancy even took into consideration that when wearing cloth diapers, there are more frequent changes - they assigned a 1/1.72 ratio to offset the difference. Procter and Gamble did not submit a legal challenge to this report. (www.slonet.org/~scoward/poop.html).
In 1988, over 18 billion diapers were sold and consumed in the United States that year.4 Based on our calculations (listed below under "Cost: National Costs"), we estimate that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S.13
The instructions on a disposable diaper package advice that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding, yet less than one half of one percent of all waste from single-use diapers goes into the sewage system.4
Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.4
In 1988, nearly $300 million dollars were spent annually just to discard disposable diapers, whereas cotton diapers are reused 50 to 200 times before being turned into rags.4
No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.5
Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.5
Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.3
The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.3
Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR.6
In 1991, an attempt towards recycling disposable diapers was made in the city of Seattle, involving 800 families, 30 day care centers, a hospital and a Seattle-based recycler for a period of one year. The conclusion made by Procter & Gamble was that recycling disposable diapers was not an economically feasible task on any scale.17
Dryness and Rash:
The most common reason for diaper rash is excessive moisture against the skin.19
Newborns should be changed every hour and older babies every 3-4 hours, no matter what kind of diaper they are wearing.20
At least half of all babies will exhibit rash at least once during their diapering years.20
Diaper rash was almost unheard of before the use of rubber or plastic pants in the 1940s.21
There is no significant difference between cloth and disposables when it comes to diaper rash.22
There are many reasons for rash, such as food allergies, yeast infections, skin sensitivity, chafing, and chemical irritation. Diaper rash can result from the introduction of new foods in older babies. Some foods raise the frequency of bowel movements which also can irritate. Changes in a breastfeeding mother's diet may alter the baby's stool, causing rash.19
We estimate that each baby will need about 6,000 diapers7 during the first two8 years of life. The following estimates are based on prices in San Francisco, California.
Disposables. For these calculations, let's assume that a family needs about 60 diapers a week. In the San Francisco Bay area, disposable diapers cost roughly 23¢ per store-brand diaper and 28¢ for name-brand. This averages to 25.5¢ per diaper. Thus the average child will cost about $1,600 to diaper for two years in disposable diapers, or about $66 a month9.
Diaper Services. Subscribing to a diaper services costs between $13 and $17 each week depending on how many diapers a family decides to order. Let's assume the family spends roughly $15 a week for 60 diapers a week. This equals $780 annually and averages to $65 a month. Over the course of two years, the family will spend about $1500 per baby, roughly the same cost as disposables, depending on what type of covers are purchased and what type of wipes are used. If one adds in the cost of disposable wipes for either diapering system, the costs increase.
Cloth Diapers. For cloth diapering, each family will probably need about 6 dozen diapers10. The cost of cloth diapering can vary considerably, from as low as $300 for a basic set-up of prefolds and covers11, to $1000 or more for organic cotton fitted diapers and wool covers. Despite this large price range, it should be possible to buy a generous mix of prefolds and diaper covers for about $300, most of which will probably last for two children. This means the cost of cloth diapering is about one tenth the cost of disposables12, and you can spend even less by using found objects (old towels & T-shirts).
National Costs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 19 million children under four in 2000. We could probably assume that there are about 9.5 million children under two and therefore in diapers at any one time. Based on previous studies, we estimate that 5-10% of babies wear cloth diapers at least part time. We will average these figures to 7.5% of babies in cloth diapers and 92.5% in disposables. This means that about 8.8 million babies in the U.S. are using 27.4 billion disposable diapers every year13.
Based on these calculations, if we multiply the 8.8 million babies in disposable diapers by an average cost of $800 a year, we find that Americans spend about 7 billion dollars on disposable diapers every year. If every one of those families switched to home-laundered cloth prefold diapers, they would save more than $6 billion14, enough to feed about 2.5 million American children for an entire year15. Coincidentally, the 2002 U.S. Census reveals that 2.3 million children under 6 live in poverty16.
Tax Savings. In some specific circumstances, when cloth diapers have been prescribed for the treatment of a disease, tax savings may be available through the use of flexible spending accounts and medical expense deductions. This could represent a 10% - 35% savings on the cost of diapers depending on the family's tax rate.23
realdiaperassociation.org - sources