Moms on Facebook Say New Pampers Diapers Cause Chemical Burns, Rashes

A consumer uprising against Pampers diapers has broken out on Facebook.

Procter & Gamble is trying to figure out how to respond to allegations that a new brand of Pampers causes chemical burns and diaper rashes. In fact, two lawsuits have already been filed.

Bloomberg reported:

"The anti-Pampers campaign started with parents on Facebook complaining that P&G's new Dry Max diapers were causing skin rashes and chemical burns. Sara Ann Fobear, a 21-year-old social worker in Belleville, Ontario, with an eight-month-old daughter started a Facebook page, 'RECALL PAMPERS DRY MAX DIAPERS!'

" 'U think when you buy the best diapers ... Pampers ... that your baby is safe and you only want what is best for them ... then find out it’s the diapers that have been causing your baby so much agony,' wrote Fobear.

"When P&G launched Dry Max in March, the company called the new diapers Pampers' 'biggest innovation in 25 years.' The company, which also sells Tide detergent and Gillette razors, says the new Pampers are 20 percent thinner and twice as absorbent as previous diapers. Jack Russo, an analyst at the St. Louis-based Edward Jones & Co., said Pampers is one of P&G's 'top five or six' best-selling brands.

" 'The name-brand power is pretty strong,' Russo said.

On May 6, P&G released a statement denying that Dry Max Pampers caused rashes or burns.

" 'These rumors are being perpetuated by a small number of parents, some of whom are unhappy that we replaced our older Cruisers and Swaddlers products while others support competitive products and the use of cloth diapers,' the company said. 'Some have specifically sought to promote the myth that our product causes chemical burns.'

"The company posted to its Pampers Facebook page a letter from Pampers Vice President Jodi Allen and a video featuring a pediatrician discussing diaper rash. P&G also added a 'Questions about Pampers with Dry Max?' section to the Pampers website.

"P&G spokesman Bryan McCleary said in an interview that the company has found no evidence that the diapers cause rashes or burns and that P&G has received one rash complaint for every 5 million Dry Max diapers sold -- about 400 complaints so far."

In her Facebook post, Allen said:

"As you know, Dry Max is one of the most tested diapers in our history -– developing Dry Max involved 20,000 babies and 300,000 diaper changes. Still, we didn't rely just on that background testing. When we started getting these calls, we gathered together our entire product safety, research, and consumer relations teams and began researching specific cases. In some instances, we requested that diapers be returned. We tested these products and examined again the materials that go into our diapers. (I just want to emphasize that the Dry Max diaper uses the same type of materials as the older Cruisers and Swaddlers.) We double-checked everything again to be sure there weren't unknown issues. Then we consulted with a team of respected outside pediatricians and dermatologists, who reviewed our safety data.

"This comprehensive evaluation did not find any evidence whatsoever that Dry Max is behind the diaper rashes that some moms have reported. Diaper rashes, as you all know, can be a mystery. On average babies get them three to four times a year, and sometimes they are severe. Pampers has the responsibility to regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, to alert consumers to any such problems if they exist. More importantly, we also feel deep responsibility to you as parents ourselves. Believe me, if we found anything wrong, we would tell you. But that simply has not been the case. We even surveyed parents nationwide over the past few weeks, to gauge their opinions, and more than 70 percent said they preferred Dry Max to their current diaper because it is thin, flexible, and one step better for the environment than the product replaced."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has opened an investigation into the matter.

Marketing experts warn that P&G had better be careful when fighting back against allegations from mothers.

Covering the story

Journalists have to be careful with this story. Just because there are hundreds of complaints about the diapers does not mean the diapers are causing rashes. Just because the CPSC has opened an investigation does not mean the investigation will turn up evidence. Just because some lawyers have filed lawsuits does not make P&G negligent.

On the other hand, just because a big company claims it has tested its products a lot does not mean the product isn't causing problems.

Watch the tone of the coverage and avoid making definitive statements about the safety of this product until the evidence is in.

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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