SPRINGFIELD — Illinois parents with infants as well as some senior citizens may get a better deal on diapers under a proposal pending in the state Senate.
Legislation introduced this week would create a sales tax exemption for child-size and adult diaper purchases in Illinois.
Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, drafted the plan after he saw that diaper prices were prohibitive for many residents, leading some families to continue to use diapers after they are soiled, he said.
"(The idea) came from a constituent of mine in Vermilion County who's seen a large number of people out there who can't afford diapers and are looking for some sort of relief," he said. "She found too many families in Vermilion County willing to keep children in diapers longer because they couldn't afford new ones.
"If parents are leaving their children in dirty diapers just because they can't afford new ones, it has real health consequences."
Karen Shiflett, a program director and family case manager at the Macon County Health Department in Decatur, said the problem isn't new to her.
"Our WIC (Women Infant Children) families and case management families are often here requesting help with diaper assistance or diaper referrals," she said.
She added that most people probably know most of the risks carried by diaper overuse, but she hears about it happening "continuously."
"Certainly, I think it's common knowledge that when a child is left in a diaper for an extended period of time, a rash or breakdown of the skin is a definite possibility," she said. "That's painful for a child to endure."
According to a study published last year by the Yale School of Medicine, the practice can lead to rashes, staph infections and urinary tract infections.
Frerichs, who is running for state treasurer, did not have an estimate of the state's cost or the consumer savings the exemption would create, but he said the measure would help low-income families regardless.
An 88-pack of Pampers costs about $28, which — along with the Illinois rate of 6.25 percent — comes with a sales tax of $1.75.
"They wouldn't be paying the sales tax," he said of his legislation. "By no means would this solve all their problems, but it's a little relief to a basic necessity."
Frerichs said he's had to deal with high diaper prices himself in the past.
"My daughter's 5," he said. "But definitely, when she was going through that time, we saw that cost. We could afford it, but there are other families out there that have to make some tough choices."
Several other states, including Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, have similar exemptions for diapers.