If you have a baby, know someone with a baby, or could possibly come into contact with a baby in the near future – grab your coupons, run to your local store and clear the shelves of diapers right away! Because diaper prices “might” go through the roof soon, or worse, there may be a “global diaper shortage”!!

But probably not.

The worry stems from a chemical tank explosion at a Japanese plant over the weekend. The Nippon Shokubai Company plant produced acrylic acid, the main ingredient in the absorbent material that’s used in diapers. Dozens were injured in the accident, and one firefighter was killed.

Concern about the loss of life and sympathy for the injured half a world away, soon gave way to more practical, closer-to-home concerns among parents. “Global diaper output is likely to take a hit,” a Reuters news report began, citing Japanese media.

But U.S. diaper manufacturers quickly sought to alleviate such concerns. “Our immediate thoughts are with the people and families affected,” Pampers and Luvs manufacturer Procter & Gamble said in a statement. “P&G has strong contingency plans and a robust global supply network to help us mitigate against supply challenges… We do not expect significant impact on most of our global business.” Huggies maker Kimberly-Clark issued a similar statement: “Our hearts go out to the families involved… Since the Nippon facility is not a significant supplier for Huggies, we don’t anticipate any disruptions in production levels or supply of Huggies diapers at this time.”


But one can never let facts get in the way of a good story. Despite the reassurances, the mere suggestion of a diaper shortage proved to be an irresistible hook for news reporters across the U.S.: “Parents Stock Up Amid Fears of Global Diaper Shortage!” – even as the evidence suggested otherwise.

“You better stock up now before things get too messy. A good diaper may soon be hard to find!” reported WTVG-TV in Toledo, Ohio. “This could be worse than stores running out of Furby dolls – it’s a potential worldwide shortage of disposable diapers,” reported KGO-TV in San Francisco. And from KTVT-TV in Dallas, “North Texas parents aren’t taking the news of an explosion at a diaper plant in Japan lightly. They’re stocking up over fears of a shortage or price hike.”

The only problem is, no one seemed to find any actual parents who really were stocking up. “No run on diapers yet,” said KGO. “A check of local markets today found there were still plenty on store shelves.” KTVT interviewed parents who were already buying diapers, and when alerted to the looming “diaper disaster”, some said they were thinking about possibly coming back to the store later in the week to buy some more. Which is exactly what parents who go through a lot of diapers tend to do anyway.

“Potential worldwide diaper shortage worries parents,” said a report on Canada’s CBC News website, which cited various blog comments and Twitter chatter as evidence that parents were worried. Which means the media that caused the fear, was now able to report on the fear they had caused. A perfect circle.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed at American Public Media’s Marketplace program. “No, you don’t have to start hoarding diapers,” their report begins. “Babies won’t be left high and dry. Just dry. At least for now.”

So hang on to your Huggies, Luvs and Pampers coupons and wait for a good sale. They’ll still be there when you need them. And the media can move on to more urgent matters – like the “Global Bacon Shortage!” Sigh.

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