The Alarming Facts About Sanitary Napkins You Should Know Before Using One Again
As we become increasingly aware of the impact that plastic and synthetic chemicals have on our health and the environment, the more consumers and researchers are beginning to question everyday products like pads and tampons, which contain these very components. Manufacturers will argue that the amount of chemicals added into these products is in small enough quantities not to pose a risk, however the problem is that these substances can bioaccumulate over time. Long-term exposure to chemicals can cause cancer and other health problems to develop. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
7 Downsides to Using Conventional Pads and Tampons
1. They contain plastic
Most pads and tampons contain a certain amount of plastic chemicals that are then put in direct contact with one of the most sensitive and vulnerable areas of a woman’s body. The labia and vagina area has a large amount of tiny blood vessels and thin skin, so it is easy for these chemicals to be absorbed and then spread throughout the body. Toxic plastics used in feminine hygiene products include:
- BPA and BPS, which are linked to cancer and heart disease (1)
- Phthalates, which disrupt gene expression (1)
- DEHP, which can lead to organ damage (1)
2. Odor neutralizers and fragrance
Plastics aren’t the only chemicals hiding in your pads and tampons! Odor neutralizing chemicals and fragrance to help mask “period smells” don’t just refer to one or two chemicals, but rather thousands of them. These chemicals are not natural and are difficult for your body to process. (2)
3. Restrict air flow
Pads and tampons, especially those made from plastics and synthetic materials, do not allow for proper air flow to the vaginal area. This creates a damp environment and traps in heat, which promotes the growth of yeasts and other potentially harmful bacteria. This bacterial build up can increase your risk of developing yeast infections, as well as other more serious problems.
While some pads and tampons contain real cotton, most are made from rayon, a synthetic alternative. Not only is this yet another synthetic, chemical material, but some research suggests that rayon may absorb too much moisture from the vagina and leave behind small fibers which might increase the risk for developing toxic shock syndrome. (3)
If you purchase only 100% cotton pads and tampons in an effort to side-step all of the aforementioned chemicals, you will unfortunately find yourself with another set of problems. Many cotton pads and tampons are bleached with chlorine or other chemicals that yet again are coming in direct contact with sensitive areas of your body. Cotton is also one of the world’s most heavily sprayed crops, meaning you are exposing yourself to a wide variety of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Eight out of the ten most commonly used pesticides on American cotton have been classified as moderately to highly hazardous by the World Health Organization. (4)
6. The Environment
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A woman will use on average 16,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime. Most of these, along with their packaging, ends up in landfills and water treatment plants. They are made with plastics that take years to break down, and they leach those plastic chemicals into the soil and water. While the total environmental impact of feminine products hasn’t been properly studied, there’s no questioning that all that waste is damaging to the earth.
7. Glyphosate contamination
A recent study has discovered that up to eighty-five percent of tampons and 100% of cotton gauze products are contaminated with glyphosate, and herbicide linked to cancer. This gets absorbed into your blood stream directly surrounding your reproductive organs, as well as circulated throughout the rest of your body. (5)
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a serious infection caused by either staphylococcus bacteria or streptococcus bacteria. While it is possible to contract TSS from other means, the most common cause is improper use of tampons, leaving them in for longer than the recommended amount of time.
While both have their issues as discussed above, generally speaking pads are safer than tampons, as you can’t get TSS from wearing pads. Obviously, however, there are still plenty of issues with using conventional pads. Thankfully, there are alternatives that use safer materials and are much more sustainable.
Natural Alternative to Conventional Pads and Tampons
Organic pads and tampons: The simplest way to avoid all the chemicals is to go organic. While this doesn’t take care of the waste issue, it does decrease the chemical exposure to both your body and the environment.
If you’re interested in going organic with your period, check out Natracare Organics.
Menstrual Cups: Menstrual cups, or most widely known as the popular brand, the Diva Cup. These are great because they drastically reduce the amount of waste used and they can be left in all day or all night without risk of developing TSS. The downside is that if blood makes you squeamish, they can be a tad gross to deal with, and if you do end up having to empty while out in public it can be a tricky situation.
Visit their website to learn more about Diva Cups.
Cloth Pads and Period Panties: Also reusable, cloth pads and period underwear are great because they can be thrown in the wash just like the rest of your laundry. The downside is they may not be as absorbent as you need them to be, and changing them out of the house is an issue.
If you’re interested in cloth pads and period panties, check out Lunapads.
Considering the number of periods you will have in your lifetime, choosing to switch to more natural period products will make a large dent in the number of chemicals you are exposed to throughout your lifetime, and also lower your carbon footprint on the environment.
Periods aren’t great, but using the right products can certainly help make them a little bit easier. Share this article with all the women you know to help raise awareness about the dangerous ingredients in menstrual products and make the switch to natural period products today.
(1) Plastics: Danger where we least expect it. (2014, February 19). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/winter10plastics/
(2) Fragrance and parfum. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/fragrance-and-parfum/
Schlievert, P. M. (1995, October). Comparison of cotton and cotton/rayon tampons for effect on production of toxic shock syndrome toxin. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7561191
(3) Institute, P. B. (n.d.). Dig Deeper. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from https://rodaleinstitute.org/chemical-cotton/
(4) Mercola, D. J. (2013, June 17). Women Beware: Most Feminine Hygiene Products Contain Toxic Ingredients. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/feminine-hygiene-products_b_3359581.html
(5) 2015, 2. D. (n.d.). Hallaron glifosato en algodón, gasas, hisopos, toallitas y tampones de La Plata. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.infobae.com/2015/10/20/1763672-hallaron-glifosato-algodon-gasas-hisopos-toallitas-y-tampones-la-plata/
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