I never really paid attention to the amazing luxury of toilet paper until I traveled abroad to Asia for a few years and realized that to most of the Chinese people, if you are out in public and need to use the restroom, you better be prepared and equipped with
(1) money to use public restrooms and
(2) your own toilet paper.
In Japan and other parts of the world, they have bidets and washcloths to hygienically clean yourself after bowel movements.
I think it is very important to bring attention to the topic of toilet paper because it not only may be a cause of skin rashes and inflammation (as a symptom of an allergic reaction to the dyes, fragrances, and preservatives used in the manufacturing of the toilet paper), the soft, white and plush tissues are a detriment to our environment, as well.
It is more than the fact that our obsession with baby soft, fluffy and fragrant toilet paper has caused millions of trees to be cut down in North American and Latin American countries.
In fact, the country’s soft-tissue habit has a name—the “Charmin effect.” So yes, the deforestation of rare old-growth forests in Canada, increased landfill waste, excessive use of oil and water to produce our luxury has skyrocketed just in the past decade. What makes the five star, cotton-like paper just so irresistible that we have to buy them in a double roll and in bulk at giant warehouse stores? Sadly, it is the fiber taken from living, standing trees that give it that cloud-feel and almost all large manufacturers rely on them.
Most people will argue that the sensitive skin in their rears deserve such attention and have even started a baby wipe habit on top of plush toilet paper. What’s so wrong with that? After speaking to a few dermatologists, and doing research, I can safely say I think twice before even using baby wipes on my infant girl. As a major cause of skin irritation, (from the chlorine used to make the toilet paper and baby wipes white, to propylene glycol used as a fragrance and alcohol carrier in wipes which has severe adverse health effects including skin rashes, including dermatitis, deafness, kidney damage, and liver problems in scientific and animal studies, alcohol which dries out the skin), most all of my research and interviews with dermatologists result in negative correlations between using baby wipes and bleached, scented and soft toilet tissues on one’s skin. In fact, anal itching is one of the tall tell signs that perhaps it is the toilet paper or wipes used that is causing the irritation. Prolonged and untreated itching of the anus can badly damage the perianal skin, causing it to bleed and be sensitive during bowel movements.
Large companies know the harm on the environmental they pose during the manufacturing of their products and understand the health risks but cannot turn the demand and customers down because the profits are just too great. When customers demand “soft and comfortable,” companies are jumping up and down in joy to fulfill that need!
Sadly, that need is slowly using up Mother Earth’s resources and according to the Institute of Eco Tourism, 17 trees, 6,953 gallons of water, 4077 kW hours of energy and 463 gallons of oil are needed to produce 1 ton of toilet paper. If the toilet paper isn't recycled, it causes 587 lb. of air pollution and takes up 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space.
So what are better alternatives for people who still want to use the toilet paper in their homes and baby wipes for their children or selves after bowel movements or even to freshen up? When choosing toilet paper, aim to purchase chlorine free, dye free, recycled and fragrance-free. Often these companies are a fair trade company that vows to help the earth through recycling and conscious production and manufacturing of their paper products. Using a little warm water on the tissue before wiping or using a small squirt water bottle (mimicking a bidet) is a great alternative as well. As far as baby wipes go, try not to use them. If convenient, rinse your baby’s bottom in the bath/sink with warm water. If you must use a baby wipe, choose hypoallergenic, fragrance, alcohol, and dye free. Remember that our skin is the largest organ of the body and “drinks” whatever you smear, wipe, spray and rub into it.
Resources: HuffingtonPost.com, Dr.Mercola.com, BottomlinePublications.com, RedIceCreations.com, safemama.com, goodguide.com, glycolallergy.com