A new alarming review called Chem Fatale, which was released by the organisation Women’s Voices for the Earth in November 2013, shows that common feminine care products, such as tampons and sanitary pads, are contaminated with toxic chemicals, such as carcinogenic and hormone disrupting dioxins, pesticide residues and furans. Other products, like feminine wipes, anti-itch creams, deodorants and feminine wash contain a variety of unregulated ingredients and unknown fragrance chemicals, which can be potentially very dangerous.
Apart from these chemicals, it is wise to remember that the vast majority of tampons and pads are now made of cheap GMO cotton, which might explain partially the presence of pesticides and toxic chemicals found in the end product. GMO crops (i.e. Roundup ready varieties) are sprayed with big quantities of very toxic pesticides because they are resistant to them, targeting all the unwanted weeds amongst the crops. The GMO cotton itself, can be a highly allergenic material, with absolutely no studies proving it to be safe to wear or keeping close or inside our body.
Feminine Care Products:
Here are some of the most significant findings of the report:
Tampons: Hazardous ingredients may include dioxins and furans (from the chlorine bleaching process), pesticide residues and unknown fragrance chemicals. Exposure concerns include cancer, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and allergic rash.
Pads: Hazardous ingredients may include dioxins and furans, pesticide residues, unknown fragrance chemicals, and adhesive chemicals such as methyldibromo glutaronitrile. Exposure concerns include cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. Studies link pad use to allergic rash.
Feminine Wipes: Hazardous ingredients may include Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin and unknown fragrance chemicals. Exposure concerns include cancer and endocrine disruption. Studies link wipe use to allergic rash.
Douche: Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals and the spermicide Octoxynol-9. Studies link douche use to bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, low-birth weight, preterm birth, HIV transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, chronic yeast infections, and infertility.
Feminine deodorant (sprays, powders and suppositories): Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, and Benzethonium Chloride. Exposure concerns include reproductive harm, endocrine disruption and allergic rash.
Feminine care Industry and Marketing:
Feminine care products constitute a 3 billion dollar industry in the US; at least 75% of women use them. These products need to be purchased on a regular basis as they are linked to our feminine physiology and needs.
Feminine care products are marketed smartly, creating false associations of necessity, health, confidence, cleanliness and freedom. It is remarkable that in commercials, female genitals are always implied to be in constant need of being cleaned or deodorized as if it is a particularly dirty part of the human body. This distorted perception of our bodies and their needs, allow companies to profit big time, by selling unregulated products that will make us smell good, inside and out and keep us healthy and clean.
The glory and power of the female body is never celebrated, understood or respected. Menstruation is presented as an unbearable burden limiting our freedom that luckily the disposable pads and tampons are here to give us back. This is downright false and misleading and is simply keeping us hooked to these toxic and largely unnecessary products.
The truth is that a healthy vagina is a self-cleaning organ. The vagina produces mucous which coats the surface, clearing away bacteria, viruses or other harmful substances. Excess washing of the area can interfere with this natural process, inviting potential infections to take hold.
In fact, the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) specifically recommend against intravaginal cleaning (douching) as it is both medically unnecessary and associated with adverse health outcomes such as increased bacterial infections.
The feminine care industry is self-(un)regulated
Many feminine care products are considered cosmetics. Sadly, the ingredients of these products are rarely discussed in public and according to the FDA cosmetic companies do not have to prove the safety of the ingredients of their products or disclose any safety reports. Also, the FDA does not have the power to recall dangerous, toxic products; this can only be done voluntarily by the producing company. The only body with the authority to actually test the ingredients in cosmetics is the industry-funded panel called the Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR).
Tampons and pads are not considered cosmetics, but medical devices and are therefore regulated by FDA. Here the situation is even worse than with cosmetics because the manufacturing companies do not even have to disclose the ingredients to consumers. Anti-itch creams and medicated douches are considered as over-the counter drugs, with FDA reviewing only the active ingredient and not the whole commercial formula. Potentially harmful contaminants are never examined.
By never talking about the composition of the feminine care products and exaggerating the feelings of liberation and cleanliness they supposedly provide, in the advertising campaigns, the manufacturing industries mislead us to believe that they are safe, necessary and good for us. This prevents women from considering the fact that whatever these products contain or are contaminated with will pass rapidly through the extremely permeable mucus membranes of the vaginal and vulvar (internal and external female genitals respectively) area.
The female reproductive system is vulnerable to chemical exposure
The surface of the female genitals are full of blood and lymphatic vessels, with increased absorbing capacity, which can transfer any absorbed substances directly to the circulation bypassing the metabolism in the liver and kidneys. In fact, a study published in 1999 in the “American Journal for Obstetrics and Gynaecology” compared the absorption of the hormone estradiol when taken orally or as a vaginal suppository and found that the vaginal way delivered 10-80 times more estradiol in the body, compared to the oral way.
Obviously, the presence of endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, reproductive toxins and allergens is totally unacceptable for products that are in direct touch with such permeable tissues. It is worth wondering what could be the effect on the body if cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting substances are released systematically for a few days per month, every month, for 30 years in the circulation, bypassing all regulatory physiological mechanisms.
Alternative feminine care products:
In my opinion it is important to escape the manufactured demand for overpriced toxic feminine care products. There are excellent quality sustainable solutions, which will free you from the dependence of conventional products. Choose natural, fragrance-free sanitary products made of organic cotton or hemp – reusable or disposable option are available. There are many companies selling awesome stuff. Here are some examples:
– Earthwise Girls
The menstrual cup is an excellent option and my personal favourite. Made of surgical, medical-grade hypoallergenic silicon, these great reusable cups are designed to internally collect (rather than absorb) the menstrual blood. A menstrual cup can have a capacity 3 times greater than the absorbency of a Super tampon. Menstrual cups can be used for many years; from what I know you should change it only a couple of times during your lifetime. There are several companies selling these in very reasonable prices. Most of them also manufacture and sell reusable and disposable panty liners and pads as well.I got mine from: Mooncup, but other reputable companies include Diva Cup , Lady Cup, which I hear they are actually available in the American supermarkets (no such luck in Europe..)! That is real progress ladies…
My personal experience with the menstrual cup is very, very positive. I decided to switch to an alternative option after a persistent infection triggered by a tampon. I wish I had done this many years earlier… It takes a bit of practise to learn how to use it (especially remove it), but once this is sorted, you will feel incredibly clean, free and lucky you are using a menstrual cup.