A recent question from Pearl on the Mommy Footprint fan page had me interested from the moment I read it. Thank you for asking about Teflon lined diaper bags Pearl! I had no idea that some of the many popular diaper bag options sold are lined with Teflon. Since reading Pearl’s question, I’ve spent a few hours researching the article from the standpoint “if I was to purchase a bag with Teflon lining, how would I dispose of this material at the end of the bags life?”. Well, I cannot find a way for an owner of a diaper bag to dispose of the Teflon after the bag’s use is over. Not only that, most articles about Teflon lined diaper bags think it’s okay to use this material since the bag won’t be licked or eaten from. I’m not a chemist or scientist but the problem with Teflon is when the material is heated. So why would you worry about that in a diaper bag? I go back to my initial argument about how you’ll dispose of the bag once it’s cracked and smelly? You cannot recycle the materials it’s made from so it’s going into the garbage. What happens to garbage? It gets incinerated. The toxic chemicals that teflon omits are called Perfluoinated Teflon Pollutants: PFOA and PFOS. You have no doubt heard of these compounds because environmentalists have been suggesting for years to not cook with Teflon frying pans because of PFOA and PFOS. Why are these chemicals such a big deal? They are some of the worst chemicals in the environment today because once they are released they never go away. They can be found in all humans (babies still in utero), whales, and polar bears in the arctic that have never made themselves eggs using a Teflon pan. This fact shows how destructive these chemicals are to the environment and to our children! These chemicals are causing infertility, tumors, thyroid disruption and weakened immune systems. Even if your diaper bag doesn’t end up in the incinerator – PFOA is released into the environment when produced. Like PVC, it is toxic from the time it’s produced and there is no way to dispose of it without causing further harm to the environment and human health.
It’s long been documented that DuPont who creates Teflon in their Virginia plant has had to compensate their employees for their elevated levels of rare cancers and birth defects with their children. Let’s take a moment to remember that there is a rule when trying to decide as a consumer if a product should enter your home. If something is bad for the environment – it is bad for human health. I’ve said this many time on Mommy Footprint and if there is a material or chemical that meets this criteria, it’s Teflon. So in my mind, it doesn’t matter if a baby or mom is licking the diaper bag because it’s lined with one of the most environmentally damaging materials in use today. Do I want this material in my home, on my shoulder, or close to my baby?
A few other random checkpoints came up while I was looking at different models of diaper bags. Many models talk about a ‘foam’ or memory foam that is inside the change mat for added comfort. Here is a Mommy Footprint test. What question as consumers do we always have to ask when a product has foam and it’s going to be near our baby? Synthetic foam is a highly flammable material so what needs to be added so it passes North American regulation? If you answered flame retardants you have been listening! I would mark this as another question to ask when purchasing a diaper bag with a change pad. Has the foam inside the diaper bag or change pad been treated with flame retardants? If they cannot answer this question, you’ve got your answer.
Lastly, a covering of scotch guard or antibacterial coating or protection on a diaper bag might be marketed as an amazing feature. Yes, children poo, throw-up, and more around a diaper bag, but doesn’t it make more sense to create a product that is washable rather than coated with chemicals to ‘protect’ against germs? Scotchgard has the same effect on the environment as Teflon by distributing PFOA into the environment with devastating consequences. We also know that products that are marketed as containing an antimicrobial agent – you are looking at nanoparticles that are largely unknown for health effects and destroying healthy and bad germs that it comes into contact with. I would recommend always avoiding these marketing tactics because chemicals that belong in hospitals for their strong level of antibac properties can contain triclosan and the concern over the rise in bacterial resistance in our children.
So thank you Pearl for asking me a question that in your heart you already knew the answer. I felt very emotional researching this topic because once again products geared to mothers, breast feeding mothers, and babies often contain chemicals that are extremely toxic to nature and health. I always like to give examples of where I would shop or point someone looking for safer alternatives in wet bags or diaper bags. Let me introduce an amazing woman that creates hand-sewn, one of a kind creations and bags…
Pip’ n’ Milly Creations is Fiona’s store and she makes diaper bags with lots of functional pockets from natural materials that are washable. I love that you can pick your own fabrics and work with an artist to create a hand-crafted work of art for a diaper bag! Working with an artist that can make you a diaper bag ensures you know the materials being used. A really easy cheat sheet when researching diaper bags to narrow down synthetic materials is to ask:
Does this bag contain:
~ flame retardants in the foam?
~ teflon in the liner?
~ PVC in the liner?
~ antibacterial or scotchgard on outer fabric?
If a company cannot answer these questions, you are not purchasing a chemical free diaper bag. Diaper bags cost a lot of money! Make it an important aspect of planning a baby shower or wish list for gifts and research the key items…not only for the effects that product will have on baby, but on the world they are inheriting!