Survey: Safer baby diapers are more important than ever

To clean up the baby diapers available in the marketplace, EWG surveyed more than 1,800 parents and caregivers to better understand what they know about diapers and what they want from these products.

What we found was surprising, even to us.

What is in your baby’s diaper?

Babies and toddlers wear, on average, 2,500 diapers a year. The components and chemicals that make these products are important.

Many people don’t know how baby diapers are made. Of the people who replied to our survey, almost all are concerned about the toxic substances used in these products.

Babies are particularly vulnerable to harm from chemicals. An infant’s exposure to chemicals is greater, pound for pound, than that of an adult. Their organs and systems are still developing, making them more vulnerable to damage from toxic chemicals.

Chemicals are more easily absorbed by a baby’s delicate skin. It is significantly thinner and more permeable than an adult’s. The skin near the genitals is even more susceptible to exposure to potentially harmful substances, especially those linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.

Almost 71 percent of survey respondents were unaware of chemicals found in diapers – dyes, chlorine, formaldehyde, pesticides, phthalates and other harmful substances.

In 2019, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety published a report that tested 23 diaper brands on the market and found more than 200 worrisome chemicals, some as toxic as dioxins, formaldehyde, polychlorinated biphenyls, furans and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.

Almost 89 percent of the parents and caregivers who completed the survey were extremely concerned to learn chemicals of concern were detected in popular brands of diapers.

The bottom line: Most people don’t think the diapers they’re using on their children are safe.

Regulation of baby diapers

For the most part, baby diapers are unregulated, and most may not be safe.

Regulation of baby diapers needs to be strengthened, but the government has failed to act. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates baby diapers, does not require manufacturers to test materials or products for an array of worrisome chemicals or to disclose the ingredients. This was news to almost 70 percent of the caregivers surveyed.

Almost all parents want diaper manufacturers to disclose all the materials and chemicals used to fabricate baby diapers.

Seventy-one percent of people surveyed who are caring for an infant felt the diaper they were using was not safe for their baby’s health.  

Several layers are used to form baby diapers. One or more chemicals are used in order for the diaper to change color when it comes into contact with urine. A change in the color of the diaper’s indicator alerts the caregiver that the diaper is wet.

PAHs can contaminate materials found in wetness indicators and are linked to reproductive issues, lower body weight and birth defects in mice. Almost 98 percent of the parents and caregivers who responded to the survey would be willing to forego these urine indicators on diapers.

The EWG VERIFIED™ solution

EWG VERIFIED™ Baby Diapers is filling that gap. To meet the rigorous standards required to earn the EWG VERIFIED mark, companies – and, we hope, policymakers – will need to improve how baby diapers are made.

A diaper that bears the EWG VERIFIED mark must be made without any chemicals of concern, disclose all materials and ingredients, and meet EWG’s stringent restrictions.

The survey results highlight the importance of healthier ingredients and transparency, and the fact that consumers are desperate for this change.

From our years leading the clean beauty movement, one thing is clear to us. As consumers become more informed, markets will move to meet their needs and expectations.

EWG’s comprehensive Guide to Safer Diapers outlines what every parent or caregiver should know before buying another diaper.

When you buy an EWG VERIFIED diaper, you’ll know it meets our strictest standards for health and transparency, and is free from an extensive list of ingredients and materials linked to harm. Consumers are increasingly wary of products that do not disclose their ingredients. All diapers that bear the EWG VERIFIED mark must disclose what they contain.