Do disposable diapers and cloth diapers contain indications of PFAS “forever chemicals?” Mamavation community members asked me to study this, knowing that babies can use over 4,000 diapers in the first three years of their life. How you diaper your baby matters because if PFAS are present in diapers, they may be absorbed by your baby. Mamavation wants to help you find the safest diapering alternatives for your bundle of joy. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best organic infant formulas, safest baby foods sans heavy metals, & safest breathable crib mattresses. Now join us for a consumer study on diapers from over 40 brands lab-tested for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.”
Disclosure: This consumer study is released in partnership with Environmental Health News & Gentle Nursery. Scientific reviews were performed by (1) Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, (2) Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar in Residence at Duke University, Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina, & Yale University, (3) Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future, & (4) Scott Belcher, Associate Professor with the Center for Environmental & Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University. This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. Donations were provided by Environmental Health News and Mamavation community members. Note that Mamavation has only “spot-checked” the industry and thus we cannot make predictions about brands and products that we have not tested. Products and manufacturing aides can change without notice so buyer beware. This post contains affiliate links, with some to Amazon, which means Mamavation will receive a portion of those sales and we will use that to pay ourselves back for the testing. You can also give a tax-deductible donation to our consumer studies here through Environmental Health Sciences. Click “yes” when asked if the gift is in honor of someone and type “Mamavation.” Thank you!
Table of Contents
Mamavation’s Finds Indications of PFAS “Forever Chemicals” in Disposable Diapers & Cloth Diapers
Mamavation’s EPA-certified laboratory found indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” inside popular disposable diapers and cloth diapers after analyzing 40 diaper brands on the market today. PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been used for many decades as stain-resistant, oil-resistant, grease-resistant, & water-resistant chemicals in commerce. From our vantage point, it looks as if the diapering industry has also used PFAS for water repellency similar to raincoats & hiking boots.
PFAS is found in many other areas of our homes with some examples being cookware, makeup, drinking water, contact lenses & dental floss. These chemicals are linked to serious health effects, which we will discuss later. Because PFAS are so toxic, Mamavation has commissioned our own scientific studies on indications of PFAS in products to make recommendations for disposable diapers and cloth diapers using PFAS-free materials. Read Mamavation’s articles (see below) on these products to find which brands are organic-fluorine-free.
For this consumer study, Mamavation sent 65 diapers & similar accessories marketed for children from 40 brands to an EPA-certified laboratory looking for indications of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals.” Here’s what we found:
- 23% of total diaper products tested had indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” 15 detections from 65 diapers and cloth diaper accessories marketed to children had organic fluorine above 10 parts per million (ppm) according to our lab,
- Broken down by category, 17% of disposable diapers tested had indications of PFAS. Specifically, 6 out of 35 disposable diapers had detectable levels of organic fluorine above 10 ppm.
- 30% of reusable cloth diapers & accessories had indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” Specifically, 9 out of 30 reusable cloth diapers and accessories had detectable levels of organic fluorine above 10 ppm.
- According to our lab, two OEKO-TEX-certified brands had indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” These brands were marketed as “non-toxic” “safe from harmful substances” and “safe for baby and the Planet.”
- Ranges of organic fluorine, a marker of PFAS, were from 10 ppm to 323 ppm.
- Both the inside and outside of the diapers were tested at the lab.
Linda Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar in Residence at Duke University, and Adjunct Professor at both University of North Carolina, & Yale University had this to say: “This is something that needs to be addressed immediately by the diaper industry! PFAS is not the type of chemical class that we can ignore around small infants. They accumulate inside the body and are close to impossible to get rid of. We already know that exposure to these chemicals can cause problems in pregnant women, but the effects on babies at this young age are mostly unknown. But just because we don’t know all the health impacts doesn’t mean they are safe. This idea is categorically false, especially around infants. I’m recommending IMMEDIATE action from the diaper industry to identify and avoid PFAS by doing total organic fluorine testing (instead of only testing specific compounds one by one) to better protect these infants.”
PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Have Problematic Health Effects
PFAS “forever chemicals” are problematic for human health and the environment. They are considered ubiquitous, persistent, and toxic. In fact, many of these PFAS chemicals can last for years or decades in our bodies.
Pregnant women and babies are the most vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals like PFAS in the environment. The development of a child can be disrupted by toxic chemicals that mimic natural hormones in such a way that are permanent and profound. Therefore, it’s imperative to reduce the amount of PFAS your children are exposed to from food, water, and consumer products like diapers. Mamavation is dedicated to helping you do that when you are shopping for diapers.
Here are some of the health effects of different PFAS “forever chemicals:”
- Reduction in immunity
- Reduced vaccination response
- Increased risk of allergies & asthma in young children
- Affected growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- Increase cholesterol levels
- Metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lowered a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- Lowered male fertility
- Increased risk of kidney & testicular cancers
- Causes endocrine disruption
- Disrupted normal thyroid function
It’s also very clear based on biomonitoring evidence from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that PFAS are in all Americans. Therefore, these impacts can harm most Americans.
OEKO-TEX Certification Isn’t Exactly PFAS-Free
While some diaper companies use third-party certifications like FSC-certified to prove they are using materials from responsibly managed forests, there is one other certification we felt the need to explain. We found some diapers use OEKO-TEX certification to showcase how they do not off-gas problematic chemicals in trace amounts or cause exposure to certain toxic chemicals. However, we found some major issues with OEKO-TEX in regard to PFAS that you need to know about.
OEKO-TEX has created new rules for PFAS in their certification, which include testing for PFAS chemicals, however, it’s not exactly a PFAS-free certification. Their new rules state that fabrics and products (in some of their certifications, but not all) need to be tested for organic fluorine. What they don’t tell you, however, is the testing they mandate (Extractable Organic Fluorine testing) doesn’t extract PFAS polymers, like polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) also known as “Teflon.” Why does this matter? Well, if you aren’t testing for PTFE, you won’t find PTFE in those tests. (We found two perfect examples of this possibility in our testing when we found an indication of PFAS in diapers with OEKO-TEX certification.)
So PTFE (the same chemical coating on certain non-stick pans) could potentially be in OEKO-TEX-certified products and no one would know because the testing mandated by the certification would not be able to tell. From our vantage point as we have helped several brands behind the scenes become fluorine-free, the vast majority of the problems we have encountered over the past three years are mostly related to PTFE. PTFE is also known to be very common in manufacturing in general, meaning it’s safe to assume it’s being used somewhere along the supply chain via lubrications, coatings on machinery, fluorinated plastics, etc. Therefore although OEKO-TEX is claiming to be PFAS-free, they aren’t telling you ALL the details to help you make an educated decision on PFAS. They use a testing approach that avoids PTFE. This means they cannot claim their products are PFAS-free.
OEKO-TEX is already in the crosshairs of California based on laws passed that protect children under the age of 12 from PFAS. AB 652 became law on July 1st, 2023. This law states no product for children under 12 can have intentionally added PFAS that has a functional or technical effect or ≥ 100 ppm (as total organic fluorine). Did you notice it says “total organic fluorine” not “extractable organic fluorine?” That’s because California recognizes that EOF testing does not extract PFAS polymers and would miss potential issues. So is it possible to purchase an OEKO-TEX product with PFAS levels that do not meet California’s new standards? It’s very possible because they are using the wrong kind of testing.
Another California bill signed into law that goes into effect in 2025 states that no apparel company can have PFAS above 100 ppm, but then by 2027, it goes lower to 50 ppm. This is a recognition that even “unintentional PFAS” will no longer be legal in California above certain thresholds using “total organic fluorine” testing just like we have done. We believe OEKO-TEX should reconsider what type of testing they are requiring from brands to stay within compliance with California and its laws. They should also police the marketing of their certification to ensure this issue is being clearly communicated to the public.
Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University had this to say:
“Mamavation is providing a very important service with this study. I looked at the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 that some manufacturers are proud to proclaim their diapers meet. The Standard has a Class 1 section for chemicals in products appropriate for babies and this, appropriately, has the strictest limits. While the standard has been getting progressively stricter on PFAS limits over time, I would urge an even tighter strictness. Mamavation’s study deals with total organic fluorine in diapers, both extractable and non-extractable, and makes the point that it is a weakness of the Standard that it does not consider non-extractable organic fluorine. But another weakness is that the latest edition of the Standard still allows 10 ppm of Extractable Organic Fluorine (EOF)—too much, way too much! The EPA has set new concentration lifetime limits for the most toxic PFAS compounds in water that are so low that they are currently impossible to detect at any given time. We absolutely don’t want babies exposed to products containing 10 ppm of Extractable Organic Fluorine which is massive compared to the water standards! More broadly, whether extractable or non-extractable, PFAS chemicals once manufactured and distributed through commerce end up in the ecosphere somewhere and that can be in babies. Nature is helpless to get rid of them on any reasonable time scale. We really need to put the brakes on making PFAS and replace them, where necessary, as quickly as possible with alternatives that have been tested for safety to the highest standards of contemporary science.”
The Anatomy of a Diaper & Other Issues to Look Out For
Whether you have a disposable diaper or a cloth diaper, these products are complicated and require many parts to absorb liquids and keep leaks from happening. The most common type of diaper we tested was marketed as hypoallergenic to a baby’s skin which means it uses gentler materials and excludes problematic ingredients like synthetic fragrance, so the baby does not have skin irritation and rashes. This doesn’t mean the diaper is “non-toxic” but rather it’s less problematic for diaper rash. We found through our testing that a claim of hypoallergenic does not necessarily mean no PFAS.
Components of Most Diapers
- Top Sheet: This touches the baby on the inside and would be considered the inner layer. It’s important to watch out for additional chemicals touching the baby’s delicate skin like lotion and undisclosed fragrances. We found lots of indications of PFAS in this area.
- Back Sheet: This is the outside of the diaper. Many brands are using petroleum-based inks instead of water-based inks. If you have a reusable diaper, this back sheet can also be made from petroleum byproducts. (We will go over later which plastics are safest for infants.) This is also where we found lots of indications of PFAS in many reusable diapers.
- Absorbent Core Material: These are the materials used to catch the contents. Most brands of diapers use super absorbent polymer (SAP) or “fluff pulp” to catch urine & feces. Sometimes these materials can also have a wetness indicator built into the diaper that changes color from exposure to urine. We were not able to test the pulp on the insides of the diapers. While cloth diapers use absorbent fabrics such as microfibers, hemp, and cotton as their absorbent core. Some of these cloth diaper inserts come in direct contact with the baby’s skin, some do not.
- Leg Cuffs: This squeezes the fabric around their legs so it doesn’t leak. This can include an elastic waistband made from spandex, latex, or other materials.
- Closing System: This is the part that closes the diaper so you can let the baby move around without worry. Closing systems vary on the diaper. It can be a clasp, polymer snaps, velcro, or even an old-fashioned safety pin.
Here are some of the categories of chemicals, in addition to PFAS, that we looked for when ranking premium diapers & non-toxic diapers.
Chlorine & Derivatives
Most disposable diapers in the past were made from a type of wood pulp that was dyed with chlorine bleach to make them whiter. Back then chlorine produced carcinogenic dioxins that babies were exposed to. Today, this has mostly changed but there are still some differences to watch out for in the bleaching process. Most diapers are made from specialized polymer materials including cellulose, polypropylene, polyester, and polyethylene. They are still mostly dyed, but different methods are used to accomplish this in the United States:
- ECF (elemental chlorine-free) pulp: This type of bleaching is not completely free of chlorine because it typically uses a different type of chlorine compound — chlorine dioxide. This chemical is still problematic on its own, but an improvement on a bleaching process that uses elemental chlorine. Brands that use ECF bleaching claim that elemental chlorine is not detectable in the final product via testing, but this bleaching process can still create disinfection byproducts. Therefore, because of the precautionary principle, we do NOT recommend this type of bleaching if a better alternative exists.
- TCF (total chlorine-free) pulp: This bleaching process is what we recommend you look for when selecting a diaper. No chlorine or chlorine compounds are used to dye products. Instead, they use oxygen, peroxide, and ozone-bleaching systems, which do not create disinfection byproducts. Watch out for diapers that claim to be “chlorine-free” without telling you what type of bleaching process they are using. Chances are, they are using the ECF method and want you to believe it’s TCF instead. True TCF bleaching represents only about 5% of the pulp manufactured for diapers, so be on the lookout.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology found toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in many baby diapers. The baby diapers that were studied were found to have several known or suspected carcinogens including benzene and 1,4-dioxane. Unfortunately, they did not alert the consumer as to which brands had the highest levels of VOCs.
One of the problems that arises with diapers is the lack of disclosure. It was impossible for us to get the materials and chemicals used to produce all these diapers even when we emailed. In fact, some brands simply refused to respond to consumer questions about this. Is this illegal? No.
So how do you avoid VOCs in disposable diapers? It’s impossible to do without testing because even plant-based materials can be problematic. The easiest way to do this is to look for third-party certifications like EWG Verified or OEKO TEX Standard 100 (but not for PFAS).
Undisclosed Fragrances & Phthalates
Fragrances are used in diapers to mask unpleasant odors. That sounds great until you understand what fragrances are made of and how potentially problematic they are to infants and toddlers.
“Fragrance” is either made from petroleum (synthetic fragrances) or botanical (natural fragrance) raw materials or both. It can also contain ingredients like solvents, stabilizers, UV absorbers, preservatives, phthalates, and dyes. These types of chemicals vary in toxicity. But there is lots of mystery surrounding “fragrance” inside products like diapers.
Phthalates are another class of ingredient that is also hormone-disrupting and found in lots of personal care products. Phthalates are commonly used as a solvent (a liquid that can dissolve other substances) and fixative (a substance that can help the fragrance last longer on the skin) inside fragrances. The most common phthalate inside fragrance is diethyl phthalate (DEP) and it’s considered toxic by the Toxic Substances Portal of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Phthalates are linked to health impacts like obesity and hyperactivity in children, and the kicker is infertility in men by degrading sperm quality. (In other words, wearing fragrances with phthalates when pregnant with a baby boy is a problem.) In fact, phthalates are so problematic to male fertility, they are being restricted in places like China. You can also find phthalates inside adhesives and dyes used in diapers.
Toxic Chemicals like Tributyltin, Dibutyltin, & Monobutyltin
Many disposable diapers may contain toxic chemicals called tributyltin (TBT) or other organotin compounds (organic tin compounds) like dibutyltin (DBT) or monobutyltin (MBT). Organotin substances have toxic effects which include neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and immunotoxicity.
These compounds are very harmful to aquatic life and are used as antifungal agents in wood pulp mills or as stabilizers in the manufacturing process of plastic polymers. Because disposable diapers represent 4% of solid waste and are the third largest single consumer item found in landfills, it’s important to understand how these chemicals also interact with the environment. Several organotins, including TBT and DBT are obesogens, that is, contribute to weight gain.
- Tributyltin (TBT): This is a toxic chemical used in many industrial applications like slime control in paper mills, disinfection of circulating industrial cooling waters, antifouling agents, and the preservation of wood. This chemical is found commonly in waterways because it’s used by ships as an anti-fouling agent in paint. It’s also quite common in diapers as a byproduct found in paper mills.
- Dibutyltin (DBT): This is a toxic chemical that is used to stabilize plastics like silicones, polyvinyl chloride plastics, polyurethanes, and polyester. It’s also used as a deworming agent in some poultry. It’s common to find DBT inside water pipelines and storage containers, and thus DBT is found in drinking water and beverages as well. Contaminated food & beverages, including seafood, are the most common exposure to humans.
- Monobutyltin (MBT): This toxic chemical is used as a stabilizer and catalyst in polyurethane foam and silicones.
Adhesives, Lotions, Dyes, & Wetness Indicators
Adhesives, lotions, dyes & wetness indicators were the biggest problems we saw in terms of transparency. Most diaper companies are not 100% transparent about their use of adhesives, lotions, dyes, or wetness indicators at all. In fact, we emailed several of them and got very few responses about this topic and even less usable information.
- Adhesives: From our research on the industry, we discovered that most disposable diapers rely on a hot-melt adhesive process that uses a thermoplastic polymer to bond all the components of the diaper together. But as for disclosure, very few companies are transparent about all these details, so there may be some that are using toxic adhesives and we would have no idea. Many of these adhesives include alkylphenol ethoxylates, or APEOs, and alkylphenol derivatives, which are highly toxic to aquatic life and linked to reproductive and developmental issues in animal studies.
- Lotions: Many diapers are coated with lotions on the outer exterior top sheet of the disposable diaper. This is the part that touches the baby’s skin. Unfortunately, “lotion” could contain anything from petroleum ingredients to vegetable oils to aloe vera and botanical extracts. We simply do not know what is inside these ingredients, which is part of the problem.
- Dyes: Dyes can become very problematic to babies when they cause allergic reactions or expose them to heavy metals like lead. One study published in Pediatrics suggests that green, pink, & blue dyes from disposable diapers were responsible for contact dermatitis.
- Wetness Indicators: Some diapers include wetness indicators inside the diaper to alert parents to a soggy diaper. These strips typically include dyes or a pH indicator within a carrier matrix (which can include petroleum-derived and ethoxylated compounds) so that when urine comes in contact with the strip, the color intensifies. Diaper companies were not transparent about the ingredients used, but we know these strips can include harmful chemicals like quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats) and halogenated organic compounds, in addition to whatever is found in the carrier matrixes, which can also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs that are considered carcinogens.
If you are looking for a disposable diaper that is 100% transparent about these issues, we would recommend the following brand. We took the liberty of reaching out to them to get a discount for you:
- Healthy Baby Ultra Organic Soft Diapers — EWG Verified. Inside of diaper non-detect organic fluorine, outside of diaper non-detect organic fluorine. (Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 15% off sitewide no minimum purchase, eligible for use on subscriptions, 1 use per customer.) This means we did not find indications of PFAS on the inside or outside of this diaper.
Additional Materials To Avoid in Reusable & Cloth Diapers
We were very surprised by the chemicals and materials used in the cloth diapering industry because when you look online for toxic-free diapering options, many websites recommend cloth diapers. So we started by interviewing a retired industry expert who started up her own cloth diaper company many years ago. In our interview, she told us she believed she was pushed out of the industry because she demanded better materials from her manufacturers which they did not have.
This story struck us as very problematic so we decided immediately to start testing cloth diapers for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” in addition to disposable diapers and we are very glad we did.
Not only did we find indications of PFAS in some very popular cloth diaper products, but we also wanted to explore for you additional materials we found could be problematic inside cloth diapers:
- Waterproofing Fabrics — These materials we found could be covered in PFAS “forever chemicals” as a way to keep the moisture inside the diaper. There are two basic fabrics we noticed that are used for the outer layer of waterproofing: Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU). Most of the time they are going together whereas the PUL is the fabric and the TPU is a thin plastic that goes over the fabric. PUL can be manufactured with toxic solvents unless it’s considered “Thermally Bonded PUL,” which is thermally bonded with heat, pressure, and mystery adhesives. However, all types are made from petroleum byproducts and can off-gas over time just like other types of petroleum products as they are washed and broken down over time.
- Liner Fabrics — These fabrics are mostly different types of fleece, which is a fabric that is knit on one side and brushed on the other side to loosen the fabric and create plush. Options we found were microfleece, cotton or cotton blended fleece, polyester fleece, lycra spandex fleece, French terry fleece, & polar fleece. Some of these fleece absorbs water while others repel it. Most fleece fabrics are made from a type of polyester fiber. The polyester is made by using a chemical reaction involving petroleum and petroleum derivatives. These chemicals are heated for a time until they form a thick syrup, which then hardens, and is then spun and turned into thread. Occasionally other natural fibers are woven into the material such as cotton, wool, & hemp. These fabrics like polar fleece and microfleece can also be treated with PFAS “forever chemicals” that make them even more water-repellent.
Some websites advise customers to wash their diapers multiple times before using them. We are unconvinced washing in the laundry will completely break down these chemicals.
What materials should you focus on diapering your baby with instead? The best cloth diapers use organic cotton, wool, or hemp, however, most of them are made with PUL and TPU waterproof covers.
Toxicity of Plastics Used In Reusable Diapers or Cloth Diapers
A recent study covered in the Journal of Science & Technology looked at the toxicological and chemical signatures of the most common types of plastics using in vitro bioassays and nontarget high-resolution mass spectrometry. They found that “Most (74%) of the 34 plastic extracts contained chemicals triggering at least one endpoint, including baseline toxicity (62%), oxidative stress (41%), cytotoxicity (32%), estrogenicity (12%), and antiandrogenicity (27%).” Here is how they ranked the plastics from highest to lowest concern. Notice that PUR is close to the very top of concerns and therefore should not be used around infants inside diapers, especially if you are planning to wash over and over again which could break down the polymers over time.
- PVC: polyvinyl chloride — highest concern
- PUR: polyurethane — highest concern
- LDPE: low-density polyethylene –medium concern
- PLA: polylactic acid (found in lots of bioplastics) — medium concern
- PP: polypropylene — medium concern
- PS: polystyrene — medium concern
- HDPE: high-density polyethylene — Lowest concern
- PET: polyethylene terephthalate — Lowest concern
Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future, had this to say: “The chemical issues Mamavation has uncovered here sound like the Wild West. This is one industry that needs to clean up its act with much greater transparency and much stronger efforts to avoid toxic chemicals. Clearly, the chemistry of diapers can be as messy as what the babies unload into them. Actually, much messier because of the presence of chemicals like PUR and PFAS. In terms of cloth diapers, you are best off using organic cotton diapers that do not contain additives to make them more absorbent or more waterproof. Even PLA can be problematic.”
How to Save on Disposable Diapers
Diapers can be so expensive, especially considering you are purchasing about 4,000 of them in the first year of your child’s life. We looked around for diapers that we have been able to “pass” through testing and scrutiny of disclosed materials. One way we found to save on diapers is to set yourself up on Amazon with automatic purchasing.
Amazon discounts diapers 20% when you sign up as an Amazon Prime member with their Subscribe and Save program. We found Pamper Pure, Dyper, Honest, Mama Bear, and a few more available. These brands represent the “better” not “best” categories. All you have to do is sign up for Amazon Prime and then join Amazon Family for free where you sign up to receive diapers automatically. You can sign up for any type of schedule ranging from delivery dates from 1-6 months.
You’ll also find plenty of brands that we have as “better” because they did not have indications of PFAS “forever chemicals,” however, those diapers may have other materials and ingredients that are not as safe overall.
Other Categories of Products Mamavation Has Tested for Indications of PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
Before we launch into the raw data from our lab, we wanted to remind you about all the other studies we have done on indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” inside the food and consumer products you may bring inside your home. Each one of these studies were done in a similar fashion as this study with brands sent independently to the lab and raw data of those labs at the bottom of the post.
- Soft Contact Lenses
- Green Beauty Makeup
- Dental Floss
- Toilet Paper
- Period Underwear
- Sanitary Pads, Pantiliners, & Incontinence Pads
- Powdered Electrolytes
- Butter Wrappers
- Pasta & Tomato Sauces
- Nut Butters (Peanut butter, etc.)
- Cooking Oils (olive oil, almond oil, canola oil, etc)
- Activewear (Yoga Pants)
- Sports Bras
- Parchment Paper
- Cupcake Liners
- Plastic-Free Straws
- Fast Food Packaging
- Children’s Probiotics
- Kids’ Backpacks
- Baby Strollers
Mamavation’s Investigation of Disposable Diapers & Cloth Diapers
Disposable diapers and cloth diapers were purchased between February and August of 2023. For this consumer study, some diapers were purchased directly by Mamavation while others were donated by community members. Each product was recorded in our database and then sent directly to the lab.
Testing: Mamavation’s EPA-certified laboratory uses marker testing to identify the potential presence of PFAS “forever chemicals” in the inside and outside of disposable and cloth diapers. Organic fluorine is a marker for PFAS because all PFAS chemicals are carbon-based compounds that contain fluorine. The specific lab method used to test for total fluorine was the Determination of Total Fluorine by Oxygen Flask Combustion and Ion-Selective Electrode. If total fluorine was observed at a detection level of 10 ppm or greater, the lab did the Determination of free Fluoride Ion in the product by Ion-Selective Electrode and then subtracted that from the Total Fluorine to determine the amount of organic fluorine. This marker testing is likely to show the presence of PFAS. Organic fluorine can also capture other fluoropolymers, pharmaceuticals, and common hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, such as 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane (commonly known as R-134a) and 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (commonly known as HFO-1234yf), which are all also PFAS. None of which you want around your food, personal care products, or diapers!
Scott Belcher, Ph.D. & Associate Professor with the Center for Environmental & Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University says “fluoropolymers, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or Gore-Tex®, are extremely common forms of PFAS that could be contributing to the organic fluorine found in diapers. Methods used for detecting individual PFAS, such as PFOA or GenX, cannot directly identify PTFE. However, the analysis of total organic fluorine does account for all PFAS contaminants in diapers, including PTFE. Therefore, this method of testing serves as a good ‘spot-check’ of consumer products.”
Not Our Favorite Disposable Diapers & Cloth Diapers
Our lab found indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” inside the products within this category. The detection limit of our testing was 10 ppm, meaning these brands had traces above 10 ppm. Note: If there were traces below that amount, our testing would not have been able to detect it.
- Babyganics Skin Love Diapers — outside results 12 ppm organic fluorine, inside results non-detect organic fluorine. 2nd product from the same lot — outside results non-detect and inside non-detect.
- Kirkland (Costco) Diapers — inside results 26 ppm organic fluorine, outside results non-detect organic fluorine. 2nd product inside results 10 ppm organic fluorine, outside results non-detect organic fluorine.
- Kudos Diapers — OEKO-TEX certified brand. Size 4 Inside results 48 ppm organic fluorine, outside results 53 ppm organic fluorine. Size 4 2nd diaper results 16 ppm organic fluorine, outside results 19 ppm organic fluorine. Kudos Diaper Size 5 inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine.
- Rascal & Friends Diapers — Inside results non-detect organic fluorine, outside results 10 ppm organic fluorine. The second diaper sent was non-detect for both the inside and outside of the diaper.
Reusable Cloth Diapers
- Alvababy Baby Swim Diapers — Inside results non-detect organic fluorine, outside results 173 ppm organic fluorine. Alvababy Pocket Cloth Diaper — non-detect organic fluorine inside and outside of the diaper.
- Bambino Mio Reusable Miosolo all-in-one nappy one size Cloth Diaper — Inside results non-detect organic fluorine, outside results 174 ppm organic fluorine. 2nd Reusable Miosolo all-in-one nappy inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. 3rd Reusable Miosolo all-in-one nappy inside 15 ppm organic fluorine with no outside testing. Bambino Mio Reusable Miosoft Two Piece Nappy Cover Size 1 — non-detect organic fluorine.
- Charlie Banana Reusable Swim Diaper Medium — OEKO-TEX certified brand, however, they oddly scrubbed OEKO-TEX from a page of their website recently, but you can still see them stating all diapers are OEKO-TEX certified here and here. Inside results non-detect organic fluorine, outside results 100 ppm organic fluorine. Charlie Banana One Size Diaper — 19 ppm organic fluorine inside and non-detect outside.
- GroVia Hybrid Shell Waterproof Diaper Cover — 323 ppm organic fluorine (outer cover only, burgundy color), GroVia Hybrid Shell Waterproof Diaper Cover — non-detect organic fluorine (outer cover only, Waverly pattern), ONE by GroVia One Size Cloth Diaper – non-detect organic fluorine.
- OsoCozy Cloth Diaper — inside 20 ppm organic fluorine, 2nd product inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine.
- Pampers Pure Protection Hybrid Diaper with Reusable Cover — Inside results non-detect organic fluorine, outside results 158 ppm organic fluorine. 2nd sample was non-detect inside and outside.
- Smart Bottoms Newborn Cloth Diaper — inside 11 ppb organic fluorine, 2nd products inside non-detect and outside of diaper non-detect.
Better Disposable Diapers & Cloth Diapers
Our lab did NOT find indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” within the products of this category. However, there are other materials or ingredients used that we find somewhat concerning. For disposable diapers, we placed diapers that were processed using ECF here or had unknown fragrances, lotions, or dyes. For reusable cloth diapers, we placed products here using additional waterproofing materials made of PUL or TPU. For more context, we’ve included notes from our partners from The Gentle Nursery. We do not recommend brands that are marked with a * because of lack of ingredient disclosure, however, we still think it’s important for you to know we did not find an indication of PFAS on them.
- DYPER Plant-Based & Sustainable Bamboo Diapers — OEKO-TEX certified. Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. 2nd diaper inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Get 50% off your monthly diaper subscription by using this link.) (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: DYPER’s makes a quality plant-based diaper that is phthalate and fragrance-free. Their original disposable diapers are made with viscose fabrics made from bamboo fibers using a closed-loop system. Dyper indicates that their diapers are free from phthalates, PVC, fragrances, and lotions, however, ECF processing has placed them here but they are otherwise a great option. This brand is also available on Amazon Prime.)
- Eco by Naty Diapers — OEKO-TEX certified. Size 2 diapers inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. Size 5 diapers inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Eco by Naty is a high-quality, responsible diaper brand. Up until recently, they used TCF processing but recently switched to ECF, which is why they’re only rated Better (not Best). We love that they’re free from fragrances/perfumes and lotions and that their inner topsheet is made from plant-based polyethylene, not a petroleum-based material.)
- EcoOriginals Eco-Friendly Diapers – Newborn size — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Ecoriginals is a good choice for a mostly clean diaper. The diapers have an unbleached cotton top sheet and are made without phthalates, fragrances, lotions, and bleach. The dyes they use are AZO-free, which we love seeing. Plus, the diapers are luxuriously soft as well as breathable and absorbent for your baby’s comfort. However, EcoOriginals did not make it to the “best” category because they recently switched to ECF processing.)
- Hello Bello Diapers Premium Protection — inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Made with a plant-based core liner and free of fragrances and lotions, however, uses ECF processing so it made our better list.)
- Honest Company Diapers — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Honest Diapers are designed to be a cleaner option for parents. The diapers have a polypropylene and polyethylene topsheet and are free from lotions, and parabens. They also use heavy metal-free ink and disclose citrus extract & liquid chlorophyll as a fragrance. Because they have a wetness indicator, we encourage them to get EWG Verified in the future. Parents like that the size 1-2 diapers have a blowout protection pocket to help prevent leaks, and the newborn size has an umbilical cord cutout. Overall, Honest diapers are a good option to consider and they are available through Amazon Prime, however, they made it to our “better” list because they recently swapped to ECF.)
- Honest Training Pants Size 2T-3T — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Honest Training Pants are ECF and made with polyethylene and polypropylene. Honest also claims to be free from latex, lotions, fragrances, common allergens, phthalates, optical brighteners, PVC, organotins (MBT, DBT, TBT), or harsh petrochemical additives. While they’re made to Honest Company standards, there are mixed reviews regarding overall quality, absorption, and softness. However, they are one of the cleaner training pants to consider — if they work well for your toddler. They are also available through Amazon Prime, however, they made our “better” list because they recently switched to ECF.)
- *Huggies Pullups Size 2T-3T — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: PullUps New Leaf diapers are made with minimal materials and ingredients, but we don’t know much about the colorants, adhesives, or even the bleaching process used, therefore we cannot recommend these diapers.)
- *Huggies Snug & Dry Size 3 — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: While the Snug & Dry line is fragrance-free and made to be hypoallergenic, we don’t know much about the adhesives, dyes or even what type of bleaching they use, therefore we cannot recommend these diapers.)
- *LUVS Diapers Size 2 — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Unfortunately, LUVS does not provide disclosure of their ingredients or bleaching methods, but we do know they use fragrances & lotion. Therefore, we cannot recommend these diapers.)
- Mama Bear (Amazon) Gentle Touch Diapers — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Mama Bear Diapers contain no added lotions or perfumes and are made to be safe for sensitive skin. With a polypropylene topsheet, this brand is a good option to consider. Mama Bear offers a range of sizes, from Newborn to Size 7. Mama Bear is also available on Amazon Prime making it very convenient.)
- Millie Moon (Target) Diapers Size 3 — OEKO-TEX certified. Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Aside from their recent switch from TCF to ECF, Millie Moon diapers are still a great non-toxic disposable diaper to consider. Testing ND for fluorine, plus being highly absorbent and free from added lotions and fragrances, Millie Moon makes our “Better” list.)
- Pampers Pure Diapers Size 5 — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (TCF)(Notes from Gentle Nursery: A total chlorine-free diaper that’s also fragrance-free and made intentionally with better materials, Pampers Pure is a better choice for your baby’s diaper. While the diaper tested ND for fluorine and uses TCF bleaching, it also contains unknown fragrances & dyes, which means it doesn’t make our best list simply because of a lack of ingredient disclosure from the manufacturer. However, these diapers are available on Amazon Prime making them very convenient.)
- Pampers Splashers Swim pants size medium — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF)(Notes from Gentle Nursery: Surprisingly, these diapers appear to be free from added fragrances and are made with minimal ingredients. The company doesn’t disclose specifics about its adhesives or colorants, but otherwise, this appears to be an OK choice for a swim diaper, considering it tested ND for fluorine.)
- *Pampers Swaddlers Size 2 — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: These diapers are particularly concerning because they contain a long list of ingredients, including a non-descript fragrance. While they tested ND for fluorine, we can’t recommend this brand based on the use of added fragrance and lotion.)
- Target Up & Up Pull Ups — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (ECF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: There isn’t a lot of information available about Up & Up diaper ingredients, but in general, the ingredients are somewhat simple and do not include fragrance and lotions. These diapers use polyolefin, polypropylene, polyester, and polyethylene but we don’t know much about the adhesives or dyes used.)
Reusable Cloth Diapers
- Beau & Belle Little Reusable Swim Diaper — inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: To our surprise, Beau & Belle tested clean for organic fluorine, making it a safe choice for your baby’s swim diapers. The only reason it’s not on our “Best” list is because the inner lining is a polyester PUL fabric. But that wouldn’t stop us from using this for swimtime.)
- Blueberry Training Pants Small — inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Blueberry Training Pants are designed to look and feel like underwear for little ones who are potty training. They are partially waterproof and will catch small accidents during the day, but are not recommended for naptime or overnight use. The inner lining is made from a cotton and polyester blend with PUL, which is why it’s rated “Better” and not “Best”.)
- Bumgenius Original Pocket Style Cloth Diaper Original Pocket Diaper — inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Bumgenius is one of the most popular brands of cloth diapers, so we’re happy to see that the Original Pocket Style Diaper tested ND for organic fluorine. These cloth diapers are made with polyester, nylon, and spandex, with a 100% polyester inner lining and a “laminated polyester” outer lining. We’d prefer to see natural fabrics in the inner lining, which is why this diaper is on our Better list.)
- Esembly Cloth Diapers Size 2 — non-detect organic fluorine, inside and outside of the diaper (Notes from Gentle Nursery: While this product tested clean for organic fluorine, and is generally a well-rated diaper brand among parents, we have some hesitations on the material given that they’re made from recycled polyester with a TPU coating on the outer cover.)
- FuzziBunz Cloth Diapers — inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. FuzziBunz Organic Cloth Inserts non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: FuzziBunz cloth diapers are made with a soft, fuzzy polyurethane shell fabric with PUL, a polar/polyester fleece inner lining, and a microfiber insert. While they test ND for fluorine, we’re not huge fans of synthetic liners and inserts, so that’s why it’s rated “Better.”)
- Rumparooz Cloth Diaper One Size — non-detect organic fluorine, inside and outside of the diaper (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Rumparooz by Kanga Care one size pocket diaper tested clean for indications of PFAS. All fabrics are synthetic, so we rated it “Better” not “Best”; the outer layer is a polyester fabric with waterproof TPU lining, and the inner contains polyester microfiber and a stay-dry polyester insert.)
- Thirsties Natural One Size Diaper (cloth) — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: If you’re looking for a more conventional all-in-one cloth diaper, Thirsties Natural One Size Diaper is a great option to consider. With three layers of GOTS-certified organic cotton for the inner lining, plus an absorbent cotton/hemp blend, your little one will only be exposed to clean and natural materials against their skin. The outer layer is polyester with a TPU waterproof laminate, but we’re thrilled that it tested clean for organic fluorine. If convenience is a big factor in cloth diapering, Thirsties Natural AIO is a great choice to consider.)
Best Disposable Diapers & Cloth Diapers
Our lab did NOT find any indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” within these diapers. These products also avoid the problematic ingredients and materials we are concerned about. All brands here use TCF processing and avoid most of the other problems we covered. Reusable diapers do not use PUL materials. For more context, we’ve included notes from The Gentle Nursery.
- TOP PICK: Healthy Baby Ultra Organic Soft Diapers — EWG Verified & manufacturer is OEKO-TEX certified. Mamavation’s lab did not detect organic fluorine on the inside or outside of the diaper. (Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 15% off sitewide no minimum purchase, eligible for use on subscriptions, 1 use per customer.) (TCF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Healthy Baby Diapers are made with 35% plant-based fabrics; the topsheet itself is made from a plant-based polyethylene and polypropylene blend. What we love most about Healthy Baby is that the company goes above and beyond to disclose its entire ingredient list. The diapers are the first to be EWG Verified, meaning that they have provided full manufacturing transparency, use good manufacturing practices, and avoid ingredients of significant concern (including phthalates & lead). There is simply no other diaper company on the market that we know of that discloses their dyes, adhesives, and materials to this degree — or even close to it. Combined with the fact that the diapers tested ND for organic fluorine, Healthy Baby gets our top recommendation.)
- Abby & Finn Diapers — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (TCF)(Notes from Gentle Nursery: These diapers are TCF and have a polypropylene top sheet. They’re a well-liked diaper brand, but they are facing supply issues and have been out of stock for some time.)
- Andy Pandy Bamboo Diapers — OEKO-TEX certified. Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. 2nd product inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from The Gentle Nursery: Andy Pandy diapers have been a long-time favorite for non-toxic disposable diapers. One of the first bamboo-based diapers on the market, Andy Pandy has tested clean for organic fluorine and also claims to be free from PVC, fragrance, and phthalates. They use TCF processing and viscose material made from bamboo fibers, and the diapers contain a wetness indicator. Since they have a wetness indicator, we would encourage them to get EWG Verified. The company assures us that there are no harmful pesticides used on the bamboo fiber.)
- Coterie Diaper — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (TCF)(Notes from Gentle Nursery: Coterie diapers are made with TCF chlorine-free processing and a polypropylene top sheet. They are super soft and parents rave about their absorbency, making this a good choice for a non-toxic overnight diaper. They are also free from fragrance, dyes, & lotion.)
- Eco Boom Bamboo Diapers — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (TCF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Similar to Andy Pandy, Eco Boom diapers are made with a bamboo viscose topsheet and TCF total chlorine-free processing. They are also free from dyes and fragrances, however, they use natural aloe oil as a lotion and have a wetness indicator. Because of the wetness indicator, we encourage them to get EWG Verified in the future. They’re also very soft and known for being highly absorbent and sensitive-skin friendly.)
- Freestyle Hyper Bamboo Absorbent Diapers — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 10% off products.) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Freestyle diapers are quite innovative, featuring a BambooTek absorbent core instead of a wood pulp core with sodium polyacrylate. This means that they’re neither TCF nor ECF because it doesn’t apply to the BambooTek core. Freestyle could be a good option to try if your baby reacts to other diapers. The top sheet is made from polyethylene and polypropylene, and the company indicates that the diapers are phthalate- and fragrance-free and also do not contain lotions.)
- Offspring Chlorine Free Baby Diapers – NB/1 Size — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (TCF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Offspring looks like a promising brand of diapers from Australia. The diapers are TCF and made without the use of optical brighteners, odor absorbers, or fragrances. The company indicates that the dyes are free from heavy metals like lead.)
- Seventh Generation Diapers for Sensitive Skin — Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (TCF) (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Seventh Generation diapers are made without fragrances and lotions and tested clean for organic fluorine. They also use ink free from heavy metals. Though the inner topsheet is made from polypropylene, they tend to be a good option for babies with sensitive skin.)
Reusable Cloth Diapers
- Cloth-EEZ Organic Flat Birdseye Cloth Baby Diapers — OEKO-TEX certified. Inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: If you’re open to a flat cloth diaper that folds up on your baby kind of like a swaddle, Cloth-EEZ is one of the most natural options available for cloth diapering. Made from 100% unbleached organic cotton, these old-fashioned diapers get good reviews and are effective and easy to use. If you’re looking for the cleanest option in diapering, this would be it. They’re also highly cost effective.)
- EcoAble Reusable Diapers Hemp Inserts for Babies & Big Kids — non-detect organic fluorine, inside and outside of the diaper (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Made with 55% hemp and 45% cotton, EcoAble reusable diapers are a clean and highly absorbent choice for a cloth diaper. Designed to be worn under a wool cover — we don’t recommend the PUL or TPU options — they are a clean and healthy choice for a natural cloth diaper option.)
- Pooters Hemp Fitted Reusable Diaper Insert — inside non-detect organic fluorine, outside non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: Made from a blend of organic cotton and hemp, Pooters reusable diapers are designed to look and act like modern cloth diapers, with a natural twist. You get natural fabrics combined with a built-in snap closure in a highly absorbent diaper; these diapers are said to hold up to 31 oz. of liquid.)
- Puppi Cuddly & Snuggly SIO 100% Organic Cotton Diaper Insert Size Large — Non-detect organic fluorine. (Notes from Gentle Nursery: This organic cotton cloth diaper insert is part of Puppi’s AI2 (all in two) cloth diapering system, featuring a range of stylish merino wool diaper covers. Mamavation didn’t test the diaper covers, only the insert, but the insert that was tested snaps into Puppi’s diaper covers and is what lays against your baby’s skin.)