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Choose eco-friendly baby wipes

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Choosing cloth reusable baby wipes made from eco-friendly fibers keeps waste out of landfills and uses fewer resources in manufacturing than disposable wipes. They can also save money in the long run, too. Using eco-friendly disposable wipes keeps chemicals off of baby’s skin and out of the environment during production, and can reduce waste if the wipes are composted or flushed.

Find it! Eco-friendly baby wipes

Some of our recommendations offer natural wipe solutions and soaps as well, but just using warm water with a cloth wipe may be sufficient to keep baby clean and dry. Pre-made cloth baby wipes, like cloth diapers, are available in a variety of materials, including organic cotton, hemp, flannel, wool, and more. As a crafty and economical alternative, make your own baby wipe solution.

Before you buy

Before going out and purchasing all new wipes, consider that you may be able to save a bundle by making your own. Parents can save $300 to $400 over three years by making reusable baby wipes or using soft wash cloths instead of commercially produced disposable wipes.

Choosing eco-friendly baby wipes helps you go green because…

  • Reusable cloth wipes create less landfill waste than commercially produced disposable wipes. Eco-friendly disposable wipes can also divert trash from the landfill if they are compostable or flushable.
  • Using reusable cloth wipes made from eco-friendly materials, such as hemp and organic cotton, requires less energy and resources over time.
  • Conventional disposable wipes can contain dangerous chemicals that may leach into the environment during manufacture and when they are disposed of in landfills. These chemicals may also affect your baby’s health or irritate sensitive skin.

As with disposable diapers, conventional disposable wipes end up in landfills. In the early 1990s, 90 percent of American babies were wearing single-use, disposable diapers and using disposable wipes.[1] Not only do disposable wipes create more landfill waste, they also pose an additional environmental threat by introducing human waste into the landfills. Nearly 5 million tons of untreated human waste end up in landfills every year.[2] Discarded human waste can contain bacteria and viruses that cause intestinal and other illnesses that are excreted through the digestive tract, such as polio and hepatitis.

Conventional disposable baby wipes are made from a non-woven fabric, comprised of fibers such as cotton and man-made chemical-based materials like polyethylene and polypropylene. Conventional cotton (also commonly used in cloth wipes) is heavily treated with insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which pollute groundwater and the oceans, and pollute the environment with dangerous chemicals. In fact, cotton accounts for one-quarter of the insecticides used in the world.[3]

Baby wipe solution can contain mineral oil, a petroleum-based substance. The production of such petrochemicals pollutes the environment by releasing hazardous chemicals into the air and water, and support the hazards of the petroleum industry—which include about 2.6 million gallons of oil spilled every month during transportation and about 71 million pounds of toxins released into the air and water during refinement.[4]

Conventional wipes may also contain synthetic fragrances as well as parabens, known endocrine disrupters that are not only detrimental to human health, but also destructive to animal hormones and development. Fragrances are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which add to air pollution, are persistent in the environment, and contaminate waterways and aquatic wildlife. An estimated 5.72 million Americans have skin allergies to fragrance, while around 72 percent of those suffering from asthma claim that their condition can be triggered by synthetic fragrance.[5]

Traditional disposable baby wipes can also be bleached with chlorine in an effort to brighten the wood fibers and guard against yellowing. This process creates hundreds of chemicals that are released into the environment, including dioxin, a known carcinogen. Bleaching with chlorine also uses more fresh water than non-chlorine methods. For example, producing one six-and-a-half ounce booklet with chlorine-bleached paper requires 10.15 gallons of fresh water, compared to less than a half gallon needed when using a chlorine-free alternative.[6] Alternatives to bleaching with chlorine or chlorine derivatives include using oxygen, ozone, and hydrogen peroxide.

Related health issues

Man-made fabrics, like polypropylene, may pose health risks, as could the wipe solutions used with conventional disposable wipes. The wipe solutions commonly used are made from man-made chemicals, including propylene glycol and glycerine. Polypropylene can adversely effect the gastrointestinal tract, liver, or gall bladder and may be a respiratory toxicant. Propylene glycol, a chemical that damages cell membranes, has been shown in scientific studies to cause skin rashes, kidney damage, and liver problems. Other chemicals in baby wipes can adversely affect a baby’s sensitive skin, causing rashes and irritation.

Studies have found higher levels of parabens in tumors from human breast tissue. However, because the potential damage to the endocrine system has yet to be proven, the controversy surrounding the toxicity of parabens is still being debated.

Baby wipes with artificial fragrances can also contain phthalates, widely used industrial chemicals that are estrogenic or anti-androgenic. Studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health reveal a link between monoethyl phthalate, a chemical used to preserve scent in perfumes and colognes, and sperm damage.

Glossary

  • parabens: This family of synthetic preservatives (which includes methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butyl-parabens) can possibly disrupt the endocrine system.
  • phthalates: Phthalates are additives that are widely used in plastics and other materials, mainly to make them soft and flexible. They have applications in industry, in medicine, and in consumer products. There is public concern about phthalates because of their widespread use and occurrence in the environment.Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes, according to animal studies.
  • polypropylene: A versatile vinyl polymer used to make plastics and fibers.
  • polyethylene: The most commonly used and versatile polymer, used in grocery bags, shampoo bottles and many other household items.
  • propylene glycol: A suspected immunotoxicant, neurotoxicant, respitory, and skin toxicant, this high volume chemical also contributes to indoor air pollution.
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.

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