The safety review begins with an examination of each of the individual materials used to construct a diaper. Diapers are primarily made of cellulose, polyethylene, polypropylene, superabsorbent polymer, lotion on the liner, elastics, adhesives and a few other very minor ingredients. If one of these materials is changed to improve diaper quality, the new material needs to pass through the safety review before it can be marketed.
Particular attention is paid to those materials which will be in direct or close contact with baby’s skin, such as the liner, cuffs around the leg, waistband and the lotion. The diaper liner, for example, will be evaluated to make sure it remains soft when dry and will not irritate the skin when wet. New materials or ingredients are evaluated to help prevent skin irritation or an allergic response.
The superabsorbent polymer in today’s diapers has been thoroughly studied. Over 400 tests have been conducted since its introduction – far exceeding the number of tests the FDA requires to approve a medical device. The tests have examined skin irritation, allergic response, and toxicity if in contact with skin or swallowed. All of the tests confirm that the superabsorbent materials used in disposable diapers are safe. Most of these studies have been published and reviewed by independent medical experts.
The physical review of a diaper is done to help ensure the sturdiness of its construction while a child is wearing it. Manufacturers have studied the behavior of diaper-wearing children, and know that they may pick and pull at their diapers. But, diaper companies have consulted experts to learn the amount of force babies/toddlers can exert to pull on small objects. They have also studied which kinds of objects would be choking hazards.
Common areas of study include:
- Avoiding sharp edges that scratch skin
- Avoiding excessively tight parts that could leave red marks
- Avoiding fastening tabs or tapes that can be pulled off and eaten
- Avoiding elastics that can be pulled out
- Strength of the bonds between diaper components so they cannot easily be pulled apart
- The effects of aging on diapers