Osaka, Japan – Dozens of people were injured and one firefighter killed in the Hyogo Prefecture during a series of chemical explosions at a plant in Japan on Saturday, officials report. Nippon Shokubai Co.’s plant in Himeji produced acrylic acid, a key ingredient in a resin used in diapers.
The fire broke out at about 2 PM when an “abnormal chemical reaction” started the blaze, the Japan Times reported. The first major explosion occurred about 40 minutes later, as firefighters sprayed the acrylic acid tank with water. Authorities were alerted by an employee about five minutes later, explaining that a chemical reaction had “sparked a fire, and that workers were going to try to extinguish the flames.” A second explosion shortly followed, setting a nearby fire engine ablaze. Nagahiro Yamamoto, a 28-year-old firefighter, was killed, and at least 30 people are reported injured.
Nippon Shokubai, one of the world’s biggest makers of acrylic acid, produces about 20 percent of the world’s SAP, a resin used in diapers. Acrylic acid is SAP’s main ingredient.
While the fire at the plant is tragic, the news causes one to wonder: What exactly is in disposable diapers? If making ingredients for the diapers can spark a massive explosion that injures and kills people, and lights a fire truck on fire, how are they safe for babies? The Diaper Jungle wanted to know the very same thing, and sent a letter to a major diaper company, asking for an ingredient list for their diapers. They received the following response:
These consumer products are exempt from the MSDS requirement under the Hazard Communication Guidelines of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. More importantly though, all of our paper products are composed of non-hazardous substances.
We go to great lengths to ensure that our products are safe for workers, consumers, and the environment. All of our products have been proven safe through many years of extensive testing and consumer use.
Please be assured that there has never been a need for MSDS for these products.
This begs the question: ” What is the big secret?” The Diaper Jungle suggests, “Perhaps they know it would be unfavorable for them to tell consumers that they are in fact buying polyethylene and polypropylene plastic with bleached paper pulp, AGM (a gelling substance), petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, elastic, and perfume.”
Like any debate, the dangers of disposable diapers have been proclaimed by cloth-diaper fans for years. But the events of Saturday at that chemical plant (and, to by honest, the fact that materials for diapers are made at a “chemical plant”) does invite consumers to take a closer look. Obviously, once the chemicals have been treated and made into a diaper, they are not explosive. Obviously, they are safe for babies. But what happened once they decompose, and are filtered into the earth? Is acrylic acid safe then?
Parents what do you think? In light of the factory fire and the fact that the chemical produced is a key component in diapers, does it make you think twice about disposable diapers?