Are disposable nappies safe for babies?

Disposable nappies are so common place and billions of babies have worn them over the last 50 or so years, so what is the big deal? Surely they must be safe? Unfortunately governments work on the basis of innocent until proven guilty when it comes to chemicals. It wasn’t that long ago when smoking was safe. Or asbestos was common place in building products. Or lead in paint. We therefore can’t just assume that, because it is legal, it is safe.

Babies’ skin is 5 times thinner than adults’

I love stroking my baby’s skin, it is so soft and smooth and perfect. Part of the reason for this softness is that a baby’s skin is 5 times thinner than an adult’s. It needs to be because of all the growing, but there are drawbacks. Skin is our protective barrier to the environment. It is an amazing organ which blocks & filters. But with thinner skin comes less protection from micro hazards. Chemicals and toxins are more readily absorbed into the body, which means a greater concentration and higher impact.

French health agency finds dangerous chemicals in disposable nappies

France’s national health agency, Anses, completed a first of its kind study in 2018 on disposable nappies and found a large number of dangerous chemicals in the 23 common brands tested. The results  caused enough concern for the French government to give all nappy companies 15 days to come up with an action plan to get rid of these toxic chemicals.

The agency said that, under what it called “realistic use” conditions, it “detected a number of hazardous chemicals in disposable diapers that could migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies’ skin.”  Most of these chemicals, you probably won’t recognise but glyphosate is one you might… it’s the chemical used in the weedkiller Roundup. The same weedkiller sued in the US for causing cancer!

What to look for when buying disposable nappies

Not everyone can or wants to do cloth nappies, so if you choose to continue with disposables, we advise to look for nappies which are unbleached, undyed, phthalate free and fragrance free. It is unfortunately not a requirement for nappy companies to list all their ingredients so you can either email companies asking them about their nappies or look for the ‘free of xxx’ claims on the packaging.

Unbleached/ chlorine free: Dioxin is not used in the manufacture but is a byproduct of chlorine. Dioxin is the worst carcinogenic chemical and can cause problems with reproduction, development, and the immune system, as well as being a hormone disruptor

Undyed: Dyes can contain heavy metals which are skin irritants and, depending on the metal, can cause kidney, liver or central nervous system damage

Fragrance Free: Fragrances contain a concoction of chemicals which don’t have to be disclosed as they are deemed a ‘trade secret’. So you just don’ know what chemical kyou’re getting. One of the common ones, though is phthalates….

Phthalate free: Phthalates are an amazing group of chemicals with such a range of use that they are found in so many things. Some are used to soften plastic, others are used as a binding agent so are found  in fragrances and personal care items. In the EU & US, phthalates are banned from children’s toys & teethers because of the damage they can cause. They are primarily endocrine disruptors and messing with hormones can lead to a raft of other issues, including cancer, asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues


There are a lot of nappy companies trying to be more eco-friendly and natural while still offering mums the option to use disposable nappies. We recommend you look to these companies instead of the big brands, especially those with a history of giving babies chemical burns. Just avoid any nappy brand which mums are talking about chemical burns or extreme rashes. We really love Little Genie’s compostable nappy pants – chemical free and eco-friendly. You can get yours here


Little Genie walker nappy pants compostable eco-friendly bamboo packaging