May 3, 2010 -- Never underestimate the power of a protective parent.
Rosana Shah said that when her daughter broke into a rash after wearing Pampers' new diapers in December 2009, she created a Facebook page protesting the updated product. Now, despite product awards from parenting magazines and what Pampers said has been a tremendous sales campaign, more than 3,000 parents have joined the page, saying the diapers have given their children painful rashes and, in some cases, burns.
Proctor & Gamble officially launched its new Cruisers and Swaddlers diapers in mid-March with what it called "revolutionary" Dry Max technology. Describing it the "biggest innovation" for the Pampers brand in 25 years, the company said the technology enables the new diapers to be 20 percent thinner and more environmentally friendly than previous versions.
But on a Facebook protest page, parents across the country say that the new diapers, which started hitting shelves under old packaging months before the official release in new packaging, are causing their children harm. Some have uploaded photographs showing the red rashes and blisters they say developed on their babies' backsides after using the diapers.
"In December, we bought our regular Cruisers and I noticed that my daughter's skin was red and hot to the touch," said Shah, 38, who lives near Baton Rouge, La. "And she was in pain. She didn't want us to touch her in that area at all."
After trying to lodge her complaints through Pampers' website with little success, she said, she decided to launch a Facebook page of her own "so people didn't feel so dislocated and confused."
For the first few months, she said membership hovered around 20 parents, as the new diapers quietly transitioned to market. But after Pampers officially announced the Dry Max diapers in March, Shah said, the numbers skyrocketed.
Even on Pampers' corporate Facebook page, which has more than 227,000 fans, some parents have left comments expressing their frustrations with the new product.
Bryan McCleary, a spokesman for Pampers, said, "Our hearts go out to any mom and dad and baby that are experiencing this. We know how difficult this is. But this is Pampers' most thoroughly researched and tested new product since we invented the disposable diaper back in the 1960s."
No Evidence of a Connection
He said there is no evidence from the people who have called or the research Pampers has conducted that the new Dry Max diapers are responsible for the rashes and chemical burns reported by parents.
"Diaper rash is one of the most common symptoms and things that babies experience," McCleary said. "The things that are being described, things like blisters, breaks in the skin, deep red rashes, this is part of what is experienced by babies all throughout the year. As hundreds of thousands of moms and babies are switching to the new Dry Max, it's clear that they're coincidentally developing diaper rashes and severe diaper rashes at the same time."
But the Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed that some of the cases are under investigation.
Spokeswoman Patty Davis said the agency is investigating more than one dozen complaints about Dry Max diapers.
"When we do an investigation, our job is to look at the role of the product in the incident," she said.
The company said on its website, "Our Dry Max diapers use the same type of ingredients and materials as our other diapers and in fact, many other disposable diapers on the market. The key difference is simply in how we designed and produced the diaper itself."
And the company said that with testing involving more than 20,000 babies and 300,000 diaper changes, the new diapers for kids up to toddler age are "one of the most mom- and baby-tested diapers in our history."
But Cathy Valentine is one mom who said she not only refuses to buy Pampers Dry Max diapers, she has sworn off all Proctor & Gamble products.
She said her 4-month-daughter had worn Pampers Swaddlers since birth and never experienced a problem. But Valentine, 32, who lives near Detroit, said her daughter's bottom turned pink only an hour after wearing the first Dry Max diaper three weeks ago.
"It just got worse," she said.
She said she put the first diaper on at 2 p.m. and by 9 p.m., her daughter had bright pink spots. When she awoke at 5 a.m., "that's when she had the huge blister," Valentine said.
Every Product Not for Every Child
Valentine took her daughter to the pediatrician and after discussing the situation with him, determined that the only thing that had changed in her daughters life was the new diapers.
"It was hard for him to say 100 percent that it was that,"she said. But "he felt strongly that it was in fact a reaction to the diaper or something in the diaper."
After her doctor said her daughter had a "chemical burn," Valentine called Pampers to ask for a refund, which she received, and filed a complaint with the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
In response to the complaints from parents, Pampers created a dedicated hotline for questions about the new Dry Max diapers.
Still, some doctors say that despite the backlash online, all seems quiet offline.
Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, said she hadn't seen one patient come in with a complaint about the new diapers.
But she said that as manufacturers update products, sometimes children respond with contact dermatitis, or skin irritation, from new diapers.
"[They're] irritated or bothered by a particular ingredient in the diaper," she said.
She said it was hard to imagine that anything in a diaper could be potent enough to cause a chemical burn, but said that simple diaper rashes can turn ugly very fast.
"They can head south very quickly," she said.
If a child has an irritation and then urinates and makes a bowel movement, the skin can end up raw or even broken, she said.
"In their effort to make these products better [and] design better diapers, sometimes kids will be irritated by it," she said. "The answer is, if it bothers your child switch brands or products. Every product is not for every child."