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SAP. (a sticky subject?)

September 26, 2017

From time to time we get questions about SAP, that gel-like stuff inside our disposable inserts.

Does it work?    Yes!

Is it safe?    Yes!

Can I play with it?    Um...sure!

Those are the short answers. For those of you that like to dive deeper into subjects, here’s a rundown about SAP:

What is SAP (superabsorbent polymer)?

SAP, or superabsorbent polymer, is widely used in a variety of products worldwide. It’s common partly because it can absorb hundreds of times its own weight in water.

Is SAP safe?

It has been rigorously tested both in the US and abroad, and conclusions repeatedly state that SAP is completely safe and non-toxic. 
  • MBDC, the leading US-based design chemistry firm, assessed SAP as GREEN, which is the safest assessment a chemical or material can receive.
  • It’s on the PAFA list—meaning the FDA has approved it for adding to food.
  • SAP has an Oral LD50 of 40g/kg, which means a 10 pound baby would have to eat about 200 grams to be at risk of toxicity (or roughly 50 of our disposable inserts). Put in another perspective, an Oral LD50 of 10g/kg is considered “harmless” by EPA standards. Typical table sugar is somewhere between 10-20g/kg, so SAP is less toxic to ingest than table sugar (not that we’d want to find out!).
  • The Danish EPA determined that “no serious adverse effects were observed by oral, dermal or pulmonal administration”, which means it’s safe on skin. And they’ve determined that SAP is not toxic to aquatic organisms.
  • You can even use it for crafting, like DIY fake snow!

Misconceptions about SAP

SAP and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

There are online references of SAP and toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Back in the early 1980’s, before SAP was pulled from tampons, there was concern that the two were linked. They are not.

Newsweek has even recently reported an uptick in TSS (twenty years after SAP was removed from tampons). The cause of TSS is not the absorbency of SAP as once assumed, but the over-extended use of a single tampon over a prolonged period, which allows bacteria to grow.

SAP and Respiratory Problems in Babies

Back in 2007, Mothering magazine included an article citing concerns about SAP, including a study that found that “mice exposed to disposable diapers suffered from respiratory problems”.

However, months later they published a letter to the editor by Susan Manning, PhD, who went directly to the co-author of the study, Mr. Anderson of Anderson Laboratories. He said he was actually misquoted because the respiratory problems they found in mice were due to the added perfumes in most disposables, not SAP. She specifically asked if he found any problems with SAP, and according to her letter, “he knew of none.”

And just for peace of mind, our disposable inserts do not contain any added perfumes.

Why SAP is used in diapers

SAP works amazingly well. The fact remains that there does not yet exist an ingredient with the same absorbent qualities. Its sole function is to capture moisture, and then slowly release it (an action that occurs after your baby is done using it, thankfully!).

SAP in Your Garden

Another nice thing about SAP is that it keeps working after disposal. When you compost gDiapers disposable diapers (wet ones only), the SAP slowly releases moisture in your garden. In fact, gardeners use it intentionally! SAP is marketed in nurseries as “water holding crystals” and is a common ingredient in fertilizers, sitting right alongside our potatoes and strawberries.

SAP in Wastewater

When flushed, SAP is actually complementary to our wastewater process. By helping separate the liquids from the solids, SAP furthers the process of creating biosolids, which can turn into fertilizer for land application.

As parents ourselves, we understand wanting to feel good about what goes near our babies, and especially their delicate skin. No way would we create a product that we didn’t feel one hundred percent good about. From all of our research, SAP is safe, effective, and even beneficial to our daily lives. And for that, we wouldn’t settle for anything less.


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