A British government report that found that old-fashioned reusable diapers damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has instructed civil servants not to publicize the conclusions of the $100,000 diaper research project and to adopt a "defensive" stance towards its conclusions.

The report found that using washable diapers, hailed by municipalities throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.

To reduce the impact of cloth diapers on climate change, parents would have to hang wet diapers out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The conclusions will upset proponents of real diapers who have claimed they can help save the planet.

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