A weekend explosion at a Japanese chemical plant may result in a shortage on diapers in the upcoming months.
Nippon Shokubai Co. in Himeji, Japan, is one of the world’s largest supplier and manufacturer of acrylic acid, also called sodium polyacrylate. These chemical absorbents are the clear little crystals used to hold liquids in most baby diapers.
Recently, a demand for these super absorbents has increased significantly as the Chinese have started to move away from cloth diapers and random elimination methods to more convenient western diapering methods.
The U.S. and Germany produces the most acrylic acid amounting to around 4 million tons a year while the badly damaged plant in Japan accounts for about 20% of the world’s supply. With 20% out of commission, expect the cost of diapers to increase significantly. Also expect a run on diapers as consumers oversees look to stock-pile in anticipation of a possible shortage.