I can’t state this any clearer: your feminine products are full of toxins. And you should know what to do about it.
The wonderful women at the American organization Women’s Voices for the Earth are preparing to launch a campaign to eliminate toxins from all feminine care products including tampons, pads, douches, wipes, and sprays. I heard about it last week and since I’ve been itching to share some information about this with you. Our health as women —and, for some of us, as mothers of young girls— is way too important for us to ignore this issue. And it is a GIANT issue.
Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy, co-wrote the book Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart. As part of her research, Donsky unearthed some nasty truths about the contents of feminine care products. Below is a summarized version of her findings, which I truly find shocking.
(Edited from a feature article by Donsky written last May, which you can read here. The emphasis is mine):
- Conventional tampons and sanitary pad companies don’t have to fully disclose their ingredients.
- Conventional tampons are typically manufactured using a blend of synthetic rayon and cotton (…) Rayon is a cellulose fiber made from wood pulp. It has been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a systemic, and potentially deadly, illness caused by bacteria associated with the use of tampons.
- Conventional tampons and sanitary pads are bleached using chlorine dioxide. Although the process is technically “chlorine-free,” it produces dioxins as a byproduct released into the environment. In 1998, the EPA outlawed a much more potent dioxin-producing bleaching process, and while the newer process significantly reduces dioxins, some experts believe it doesn’t eliminate them entirely from the end products. According to the EPA, dioxin exposure causes cancer in lab animals and poses a high risk to humans as well.
- Conventional tampons contain pesticides. I’ve long been wary of conventional, non-organic, foods for fear of pesticide residue. All the while, conventional cotton, the most heavily sprayed crop in existence, is used in the tampons that women use each and every month.
- Tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and other artificial fragrances are nothing short of a chemical soup laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene, and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness, and infertility.
- Many conventional sanitary pads include latex, a potential allergen. Latex can be used to make the wings on pads more flexible, and it can be used as a binder on the surface of pads and liners, where it comes in close contact with the skin.
- Ninety percent of conventional sanitary pads are made from crude oil plastic. The rest is made from chlorine-bleached wood pulp. By using plastic laden feminine hygiene products, we add the equivalent to 180 billion plastic bags to our waste stream.
- Conventional tampons most probably contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According the USDA, 94 percent of all the cotton planted in the U.S. is genetically engineered.GMOs have been linked to a host of health issues including food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, and inflammation, just to name a few. By purchasing conventional tampons you are essentially supporting GMO grown [cotton] crops.
Donsky put together quite the list, didn’t she? Now, I am not aware of any current efforts to tackle the major risks that feminine care products present to our health, either in the US or in Canada. But here are some things you can do, some of which I have tried myself:
- Try an alternative to pads, such as the Diva Cup. You can find it in most stores. I have had one for about six years now but it hasn’t always worked for me. I know, however, many people who completely rave about it and I might just give it another try. It used to make my cramps worse but since giving birth my cramps are gone (thank you, nature!). So this could be a good incentive for me to try the cup again. A major plus: you save a TONNE of money. Pads and tampons are so expensive.
- Switch to organic cotton pads, liners and tampons. I use the Natracare brand. Other brands include: Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Organic Cotton Tampons, Glad Rags Organic Pads, and Organyc.
- Switch habits, if not brands. Natracare products are great but they are also expensive. I can’t always afford them so sometimes I go for regular brand tampons. When I do, however, I always buy the cardboard-applicator ones, to reduce my exposure to plastic. I also buy pads or liners that are fragrance free. These are not great options but I guess they are options…
- Lastly, spread the word and get involved. Now that you know how toxic feminine care products are, talk to other women about it. If you want to help the Women’s Voices for the Earth campaign, take a quick survey to help them craft their message effectively: click here.
If you want more information, this is a pretty good article written by Dr. Mercola in which he quotes Donsky’s findings and adds some other important facts about the risks presented by feminine products: Women Beware.
I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with all this information!
Let me know your thoughts and if you have any other suggestions, please share!