Study: Disposable Diapers Could Cause Male Infertility
By Anthony Browne
London Observer Service
September 26, 2000
Disposable diapers could be the cause of the sharp rise in male infertility over the past 25 years, according to an authoritative scientific study to be published this week. It is thought that disposable diapers heat up baby boys' testicles to such a degree that it stops them developing normally. Diapers lined with plastic raise the temperature of the scrotum far above body temperature and can lead to a total breakdown of normal cooling mechanisms, according to the study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Doctors in Kiel, Germany, started the study after being alarmed at the temperature of the testicles of infant boys who were brought into hospitals with infections. The cells supporting sperm production are laid down in the first two years of life. However, their development and sperm production in later life is very dependent on temperature. Testicles need to be cooler than the rest of the body, which is why they are external. Boys whose testicles descend too late in adolescence are often infertile because they have been kept warm for too long. In adults, exposure to high temperatures, during a fever or while in a sauna, can dramatically reduce sperm count. Tight jeans can also lead to higher testicular temperatures, possibly causing a reduction in sperm count. Dr. Wolfgang Sippell, professor of pediatrics at the University of Kiel, monitored the scrotal temperature of 48 healthy boys, from birth up to 4 years old, using a tiny thermal probe. His team tested the temperatures when boys wore disposable diapers and when they wore re-usable cotton diapers, both during waking and sleeping hours. The temperature was consistently higher when the disposable diapers were worn, with the highest temperatures recorded in the youngest babies. Scrotal temperatures were the same as rectal temperatures when cotton diapers were worn, but far higher when disposable diapers were worn.
They concluded that the insulation properties of the disposable diapers impaired the normal cooling mechanisms of the testicles. They found that in 13 boys, the cooling mechanism failed altogether. Sippell concluded: "A prolonged increase in scrotal temperature in early childhood may have an important role in subsequent testicular health and function, with implications for male fertility." Repeated studies have shown that average sperm counts have fallen by almost half from 1938 levels and are continuing to decline as fast as 2 percent a year. The Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers Association, which represents makers of disposable diapers, said the study had dubious methodology. Association spokesman Peter Stephenson said: "There is no evidence to support the assertions made by this study, which would appear to be implausible. The safety of our products is of paramount importance. Disposable diapers are, and remain, safe."
New Tests Confirm TBT Poison in Proctor & Gamble Pampers
Greenpeace Demands Worldwide Ban of Organotins in All Products
May 15, 2000
HAMBURG -- New tests carried out by Greenpeace found the hormone pollutant TBT (tributyl tin) in "Pampers® Baby Dry Mini" babies' nappies sold in Germany by the company Procter & Gamble. Last Friday, Greenpeace uncovered that TBT and other organotin compounds were found in Procter & Gamble's Pampers® "Baby Dry", in the Paul Hartmann company's "Fixies Ultra Dry", and in LedysanSpa's "United Colours of Benetton® Junior unisex". All tests were proven by scientific analyses made on Greenpeace's behalf. The new test, during which several parts of "Pampers® Baby Dry Mini" were analyzed, found the highest contamination in the belt section of these nappies. "Pampers® Baby Dry Mini" contained up to 38.4 micrograms of TBT per kilogram, a much higher level then in the first tests of a pool sample published last Friday. (1) Furthermore the inner and outer layer were found to be contaminated. Greenpeace also found other organotin compounds in the Pampers®, including DBT and MBT. If all discovered organotin compounds were added, a total of 53.2 micrograms per kilogram were found. Greenpeace's scientific test results contradict a statement by Procter & Gamble, in which the company last Friday denied that its nappies were contaminated with organotin compounds. Greenpeace toxics expert Thilo Maack said: "The reaction of Procter & Gamble is a scandal. The company is downplaying the danger instead of actively searching for the source of TBT in Pampers®. It is absolutely irresponsible to expose babies to these extremely toxic substances".
"Fact is that TBT is one of the most toxic substances ever made, and it is being spread through the skin and contaminates the environment as well as people," he noted. This environmental pollutant, which has been in the headlines for months because of its extremely high toxicity, has a hormone-like effect. The smallest concentrations of TBT can harm people's immune systems and impair their hormonal system. "The German government must ban this toxin in all areas of use immediately," says Thilo Maack. Greenpeace last January found TBT in fish for human consumption, and in March detected TBT in football shirts despite textile manufacturers declaring them safe again. TBT has furthermore recently been found in plastic PVC floorings. Witco, a company in Bergkamen/Germany, produces 80 per cent of the TBT used in the world. The smallest quantities of TBT kill algae and mussels and for that reason it is used in ships' paints to stop their growth on hulls.
Greenpeace has been calling on the chemical and ship industries to ban its production or application. There are less harmful alternatives to TBT in all the spheres in which organotin compounds are used. Greenpeace is at present analyzing other brands of nappies on sale in Germany. Its findings will be available by the end of this week.
Chemicals In Diapers Cited As Possible Asthma Trigger
Penny Stern, MD
October 6, 1999
NEW YORK, Oct 06 (Reuters Health) -- Childhood respiratory problems, including asthma, may be linked to inhaling the mixture of chemicals emitted from disposable diapers, researchers write in the September/October issue of Archives of Environmental Health.
Lead author Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson, of Anderson Laboratories in West Hartford, Vermont, told Reuters Health that chemical emissions of some disposable diapers have immediate health effects in animals breathing the diluted chemical mixtures. ''Upon analysis, the diaper emissions were found to include several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity,'' according to the paper.
"Mice were used in this study because of their general physiological and biochemical similarity to humans", Anderson explained, "adding that both humans and mice develop bronchoconstriction as a response to certain (odors and substances)". Bronchoconstriction refers to a narrowing of air passages in the lungs that is associated with respiratory difficulties.
"Upon exposing the mice to various brands of disposable diapers, a decrease (was observed) in the ability of (the) animals to move air during exhalation", Anderson said. Noting that this finding accurately describes asthma or an asthma-like reaction, she added "that if mice and humans respond in a similar manner to diaper emissions, disposable diapers could be important with respect to the worldwide asthma epidemic.''
In contrast to the results obtained with disposables, new cloth diapers produced very little respiratory effects and appeared to be the least toxic choice for a consumer, the researchers write.
"Though the disposable effect was noted even when the emissions of a single diaper are diluted in the air of a small room,'' Anderson said, she cautions that it is too early to indict diaper chemicals. "Whether the diaper chemicals initiate clinical disease, simply trigger an asthma-like response or are not implicated (at all) in human disease will not be known until after a vast amount of human data has been accumulated,'' she commented.
Therefore, Anderson believes that formal epidemiological investigations must be extended to infant products in order to evaluate these items' possible role in triggering or aggravating asthmatic conditions. She and her co-author, Dr. Julius Anderson, have (previously) published similar findings associated with other products used in infants' environments. "A number of these manufactured materials -- air fresheners, mattress covers, fabric softeners -- have many rapid-onset toxic effects in common,'' she pointed out.
In Anderson's view, the current epidemic in childhood asthma cannot be explained solely on the basis of what she termed, ''the usual suspects: dust mites, cockroaches, maternal smoking". Maybe child-care products (such as) plastic diapers... plastic baby bottles, and plastic toys are important factors (through the release of) chemicals with toxic effects.''
Until such time as this asthma-inducing effect can be confirmed in humans, Anderson reminds parents and healthcare professionals that precaution costs nothing. When you are dealing with a toxic chemical or chemicals, avoidance is the only proper action. ''She suggests that (parents) and doctors... believe themselves if they think a product is harming the breathing of the mother or the baby.''
SOURCE: Archives of Environmental Medicine September/October 1999.
Disposable Diapers Linked to Asthma
Harsh perfumes and chemical emissions have long been known to induce asthma-like symptoms in children and adults. Now, researchers have found that disposable diapers might be a trigger for asthma.
A study published in the October, 1999 issue of the Archives of Environmental Health found that laboratory mice exposed to various brands of disposable diapers suffered increased eye, nose, and throat irritation, including bronchoconstriction similar to that of an asthma attack. Six leading cotton and disposable diaper brands were tested; cloth diapers were not found to cause respiratory problems among the lab mice.
Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson, lead author of the report, "Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions," explains that the diapers were tested right out of the package, and one at a time. Even in a mid-sized room, the emissions from one diaper were high enough to produce asthma-like symptoms. Solvents and other substances are typically added to products during the manufacturing process in order to affect malleability and other properties, Dr. Anderson explains. "Even if you don’t want these chemicals in the final product, it’s hard to take them out. We are finding chemical off-gasses in all sorts of baby products besides diapers, including baby mattresses and mattress covers," she says.
What chemicals were released from the diapers? Tolune, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and isopropylbenzene, among others. Dr. Anderson says these, like certain scents, are bronchial irritants. "It’s similar to when asthmatics smell perfume and all of a sudden their chests get tight." Although mice are much smaller than humans, they were chosen for the study because their physiology and biochemistry are similar to that of humans. Of the brands tested, three diaper brands were found not to affect the breathing of the lab mice: American Fiber and Finishing Co., Gladrags organic cotton diapers, and Tender Care disposable diapers.
Further study is needed to determine what level of diaper chemical emission triggers infant respiratory distress. In the meantime, Dr. Anderson advises asthmatic mothers to avoid exposure to these chemicals, and to be mindful of the fact that their children may be sensitive to these and other asthma antagonists such as dust mites, roaches, and smoking. Asthma rates are on a sharp incline in the US and worldwide, particularly among poor and inner-city children.
Anderson, Rosalind, and Julius Anderson. “Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions,” Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999.
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