A world-wide run on diapers? A factory explosion in Japan has sparked fears of a global diaper shortage after it was learned the factory happens to be the world's largest producer of acrylic acid, a key component of superabsorbent polymers or SAP—those gel-like beads in the lining of disposable diapers that are responsible for absorbing large amounts of liquid.
Run by Nippon Shokubai Co., the plant had actually been in the process of ramping up production to meet increasing global demand when the explosion occurred. The factory produces about 20 percent of SAP worldwide; the rest comes mainly from manufacturers in the United States and Germany.
A spokesperson for Nippon Shokubai tells ABC that the company is already reaching out to other producers to make sure their clients' needs are met, but could not comment on whether the plant closure in Japan would affect global costs and supply.
The news already has some parents scrambling to create diaper stockpiles. "I am definitely getting a few cases of the next size up when I go to the store tomorrow, but after reading this, I just hope they're any left!" says Jessie Boyd, a mom from South Colonie, New York.
But other mothers—especially those who use cloth diapers—are taking the news in stride.
"We chose cloth over disposables primarily because we didn't want a lot of chemicals next to our baby's skin," says mom Megan Brown of Burlington, Vermont. "Instead of panicking, maybe parents could just try cloth. They might end up really liking it, diaper shortage or no diaper shortage."
Maybe cloth is the answer—or maybe there won't be a shortage if acrylic acid suppliers elsewhere step up production. But in the meantime, there seems to be only one way to sum up the current situation:
What a mess, literally.