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An Update To The Burning Diapers

by Eric Hall

March 22, 2014

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Donate A few months ago, I wrote about a post going around Facebook regarding chemical burns claimed to be due to the chemicals in diapers. Since that post, I have performed several more informal experiments and have also asked a few experts in the medical field what their opinion is on the topic. Here's what I found out.

I tried gathered a few diapers each of differing brands and styles. I took the diapers insides out and placed them in beakers. I would begin adding deionized water to each sample while monitoring the pH level. The levels in each case never strayed more than 0.1 away from 7. It appeared the diapers themselves were all pretty neutral.

I tested a generic brand of diapers (due to being less expensive) and tested with a couple of other basic materials such as household vinegar and baking soda (in separate tests). In each case, the pH would take on the characteristics of the material that was not diaper material. This is similar to the results I got using the sodium percarbonate detergent.

On the previous post, Stephen Propatier commented and brought in his knowledge from 10 years in the pediatric ER and knowledge of studies on the subject.
The most common reason for a severe diaper rash is not the diaper. It is the concentration of the urine/feces, time, and/or the possibility of a fungal infection.
The rates of diaper rash and complications are actually equal in cloth diapers. Often due to the detergents and washing agents that clean the diapers, plus the diaper stays wet against the skin. Bacteria from the child's skin and feces complicates things.
Diaper rash happens in as little as 40 minutes.
The studies and diaper rash are contradictory and often poorly structured. One thing remains consistent. Neither disposable or cloth has a advantage with rash complications. On that basis alone the chemical is probably irrelevant to the point. Just naturalistic fallacy.
In similar fashion, both my children's pediatrician and my family doctor confirmed the amazing array of skin conditions that arise in children who wear diapers simply because the urine and feces plus all of the bacteria, dirt, detergents, soap residues, and other things present on the skin can quickly become a stew of "natural" chemical reactions that can irritate the skin. Obviously, our bodies are not designed to sit in our own feces and urine, and it doesn't take alot of time to cause an issue.

One other note from my family doc is he said repeat cases of severe rashes/burn-like sores on the body due to exposure to feces and urine can be cause to look at metabolic diseases. For example, the Minnesota Children's hospital makes note of common disease causes if pH levels of feces are too far off neutral. My children's pediatrician said urine pH can vary widely in younger children on a day-to-day basis because their food intake (amount) tends to vary widely, especially in toddlers. This can also make food allergies more difficult to confirm.

While I do not have the resources to formally test enough diapers and publish data on the results, I do think the sum of the knowledge gained in researching this topic makes it pretty unlikely the diaper itself was the cause, but instead due to something else with the diaper simply being the carrier of the material causing the burns.

by Eric Hall

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