Pampers actually had the gall to post "cloth diaper myths" on their website.
I would like to share their wisdom with you and then show you why they're full of crap, both literally and figuratively.
Pampers Sustainability: Myths and Facts
"Myth: Cloth diapers are better for my baby.
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."
Pampers is RIGHT NOW under fire for their diapers causing chemical burns.
"The Cincinnati, Ohio firm is battling a lawsuit and a vigorous Facebook campaign over accusations its "Drymax" equipped Pampers contain harmful chemicals.
"Our hearts go out to any mom and dad whose babies suffer from diaper rash," said P&G spokesman Bryan McCleary on Friday. "We have great sympathy."
But he added "the claims made in this lawsuit are completely false."
That is disputed by angry parents who have posted photos on the social networking website, purportedly showing their children with skin rashes caused by the Pampers Cruisers and Swaddlers diapers, which went on sale in the United States and Canada in March.
One Facebook page had garnered 7,323 members by Friday evening, asking "how do we now get rid of this rash/chemical burn.""
This is anecdotal, but Pampers is the only brand that causes Connor and Deirdre to have diaper rashes.
"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-absorbancy tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome.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.18"
More from Green America:
"Of greater concern to many is the presence of dioxin, a highly toxic carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, in disposable diapers. Dioxin is a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching process, and the Archives of Disease in Childhood reports that trace amounts of dioxin are present on disposables. Some diaper services use chlorine bleach to whiten their cloth diapers, but conscientious consumers can ask questions to avoid those services.
In addition, two recent studies have pointed to possible links between disposables and asthma, as well as infertility later in life."
When we use disposables for travel, we use Seventh Generation. There are still some absorbent chemicals mixed in with the wood pulp, but they are chlorine free, fregrance free and latex free. For cloth, we use unbleached cotton fabrics. My children rarely ever get diaper rashes.
In addition, Pampers provides no resources for their assertion that diaper rashes have gone down since disposables have been widely available. On the other hand, I found a reference to a study that actually compared them, and found no difference. 22 Stein, H. 1982. Incidence of diaper rash when using cloth and disposable diapers The Journal of Pediatrics, 101: 721-723. It's an old study, but it's better than nothing, which is what Pampers offers.
"Myth: Cloth diapers are better for the environment than disposables.
Fact: In October 2008, the United Kingdom's Environment Agency published an update to its 2005 Life Cycle Assessment study on cloth versus disposable diapers. The update confirmed the earlier study's findings that there is no clear winner in terms of environmental impacts between disposable and cloth diapers in the U.K., once all factors such as water, energy, detergent, and disposal are considered."
This is true, but misleading. Disposables cause more garbage and take a long time to breakdown. Cloth use hot water and, if you are using harsh detergents, require chemicals for washing.
Let's talk about PRODUCTION for a darn minute.
From the Real Diaper Association:"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"
Now let's look at some of the evidence for the claims. This link (CLICK HERE) shows an excellent break down of the data, including water, materials and energy used in the production, use, and disposal of both disposable and cloth diapers along their average life cycle. Some numbers to compare:
Total coal usage in kg for disposables is 81.1. For crude oil, it is 108.7.
These same numbers for cloth diapers: 137 kg for coal. 6 kg for oil.
6 kg for oil? More energy is used over the lifetime of a cloth diaper, but only 6 kg for oil?
Their conclusion:Disposable diapers create less atmospheric emissions, waste water effluents, and solid waste (feces processing) than reusable diapers.
Reusable diapers use less raw material for production and create less post consumer waste than disposables."
Seems like in the end they come out pretty even when it comes to overall environmental impact, with one exception. Cloth diapers can be used for a lot longer than the assumed 2.5 years used for this comparison, and for more than one child. I wonder what a difference it makes that LESS cloth diapers need to be produced, period? What does it mean when the next kid needs to use all the same production materials for disposables, but NO NEW CLOTH DIAPERS need to be produced? My friends can't give me a box of used disposables. But, they can give me a box of clean used cloth diapers.
This takes care of Pampers' other two myths:
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.
Myth: The materials that make up Pampers diapers are depleting our forests.
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."
Irrelevant when compared to the longer life cycle of a cloth diaper. the same diapers have been used on two of my children and are about to be used on a third. Even better, some of them are made from recycled materials. Nothing new was produced to make them.
Now, let's talk about that last tricky little myth:
"Myth: Developing countries prove that cloth diapers are better than disposable diapers.
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.
Clearly, we have a lot to learn about how to help with basic hygiene needs in countries that have very different access to clean water to wash with, and how to best dispose of products after use. We've also learned about hygiene for older children through our Always feminine care business – where in many parts of the world girls are forced to miss school one week each month during their period because they don't have enough pads or fresh water. We are working in those regions to better understand what they do with products after use, and how to work with local agencies and other businesses to ensure the best long-term system to manage it."
Again, no references or links to evidence of the claims. But it sure reminds me of formula companies who try to convince women in third world countries that their formula is healthier than their milk.
Let's talk about COST.
In the link I referenced above for environmental impact, they conclude that the average cost per week for disposables is $10.31, and the average cost for reusables is $7.47-$16.92 depending on water usage, whether or not you line dry, and how much you spend initially.
That's $1340.30 for 2-1/2 years of disposables, $971.10 - 2199.60 for 2-1/2 years for cloth.
Let's say you want to help a poor mother in a third world country with diapering her baby. Do you give her the $1340 option, or the $971 option that includes diapers than can also be used on her second or third child? If they have limited access to clean water, do you think burying disposable diapers in the ground is going to improve that water quality? If the assumption is only 4-5 diaper changes a day, for 2-1/2 years, wher exactly are they going to put those 900+ disposable diapers? And how much money do you expect them to pay for those 900 diapers to be shipped to them, as opposed to 20-30 thicker cloth diapers that need to be shipped once and then probably never again?
In addition how many of you only change your child's diaper every 6 hours? Even if you left your child in one diaper overnight, while they are awake, do you say "that's it, only every 4 hours or so to save diapers?" Because if you do, that's why your baby has a rash, no matter what diaper you use.
The Real Diaper Assocation makes their cost comparison with the assumption of 8 diaper changes per day in the first two years. Doctor Sears recommends changing diapers every 2 hours for newborns to prevent diaper rash, and cutting back on that as the baby grows and urinates less during the day.
The cheapest I have ever bought a disposable diaper at is $.17 per diaper in a package. Let's choose a number in the middle and assume 6 diapers a day over a 2 year period. That's a fantastic number - only $744.60 over two years of diapering. For two kids, that's $1489.20 for 4 total years of diapering.
Now let's take cloth. I like to sew my own, and sometimes use recycled materials, and sometimes buy new materials. I hate making covers because I'm not good at working with the stretchy waterproof material, so I buy those. They average $10/piece, and I buy them in 4 sizes, newborn, small, medium and large. I buy 6 of each size, because if there is a light pee, you can spray it with herbs and air it out and reuse it.
For two children, one of whom needs one at night in case he pees in his sleep, and the other who is 2-1/2 and almost trained, we have spent about $250 on materials and covers. We're about to spend a little more on the third child because I gave my newborn and small size diapers away before becoming unexpectedly pregnant, so I need to make new ones. In the end it will be about $350 on 3 children over 6 years of diapering.
Calculating the cost of washing - if you have to take them to a laundromat, twice a week at $2.50 for a wash and dry cycle, that's $20 a month, or $480 over a two year period. $480 for washing plus $250 for purchasing or making (even less if you buy used) and that's $730 to diaper the first child in cloth, compared to $744 for disposables. Hardly a difference. Until you get to the second child. Then it's $480 compared to $744.
Now let's talk about washing at home. I'm going to use the number provided by this mama on her blog, Cloth Diaper Blog. She washes every other day - we wash twice a week. So, my total cost will be less than hers.
She determined that her total cost for washing was $.13 for detergent and baking soda, and $.80 for water and electricity, including the dry cycle. That, for me, would be $.93 per load, 2 loads a week, for 104 weeks (2 years).
That's $193.44 for 2 years of cloth diaper washing.
That means $443.44 for the first child, $193.44 for the second child.
For me to diaper two children in disposables, it would cost $1489.20.
For me to diaper two children in cloth, it costs $636.88.
Once I hit three children in a few months, it will be $2233.80 for disposables, $930.32 for cloth, and that includes the extra $100 for more material and covers, probably less for the years we had a house with a clothing line and could dry our diapers outdoors.
Now, tell me again about helping poor mamas in 3rd world countries diaper their children? Especially if they line dry, or have their cloth diapers donated? The only way disposables might make sense financially is if Pampers intends to donate every single diaper. I'm pretty sure they aren't.
Try again, Pampers.