This super personal area (ahem!) is much more prone to exposure and absorption of toxic chemicals in these products. And many of these feminine products are loaded with many of the 80,000 chemicals that have never been tested for safety. Ever. They were grandfathered into use by the failing TSCA law that desperately needs reform. Add to that, pads and tampons are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies don’t have to disclose any ingredients in these products. And companies are legally allowed to NOT disclose the use of synthetic fragrances.
Just what harmful chemicals in conventional tampons, pads and other products? Test results show dioxins, furans, and pesticide residues in tampons, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. Many feminine care products also contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a potent allergen.
Thanks to Women’s Voices for Earth for their report Chem Fatale that exposed this public health crisis facing women and girls. With rising rates of infertility, cancer, allergies, endocrine disruption which can lead to a number of health problems, this is an issue that must get more attention. As another case of environmental injustice, certain kinds of feminine products are used more by African American, Latino, and low income women, causing more exposure to already vulnerable populations. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, “Douches, sprays, washes, and wipes are used by a smaller percentage of women (approximately 10-40 percent), with rates considerably higher among African-American, Latina and low-income women.”
We hosted a MomsRising #EcoTipTue on this subject this fall. I learned a great deal about this issue and it has opened my eyes to the potential long term exposures to these harmful chemicals. I teach sixth grade students– the age when many girls start their periods. If they are using these products starting at age 11, they will face at least a decade of exposure before potentially wanting to have a family. In that decade they could do substantial harm to their reproductive systems, limiting their family planning choices.
During a different #EcoTipTue chat, Sara from Reproductive Health Technologies said that protecting fertility is a key part of family planning. Protecting a women’s right to choose when (or if) she will have children. According to our friends at the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, ” At least 12% of women reported difficulty in conceiving and maintaining pregnancy in 2002, an increase of 40% from 1982.” This is a heartbreaking problem for many American women.
Isn’t it our duty to look out for girls and other women? Shouldn’t we give them healthy choices and products that don’t limit their healthy and reproductive options?
Here’s a list of chemicals to AVOID in feminine care products, and a list of the most toxic products. Don’t buy these for your preadolescent and teens, or yourself and please spread the word!
In addition, Women’s Voices for the Earth recommends:
- Look for brands that disclose all ingredients, including what’s in fragrance.
- Reduce your use of feminine care products
- Eliminate use of products that may be unnecessary to a healthy vagina
- Choose unscented products where available (particularly tampons and pads)
- Choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton tampons and pads
- If you are having allergic symptoms, switch brands! When you do switch – call the company’s 1-800 customer service to tell them why!)
- Tell the FDA if you’ve had symptoms that may be from a feminine care product. Call 1- 800-332-1088 or fill out a consumer reporting form available at: http://www.fda.gov/
We must take this issue on as a major public health problem and reform our laws to better protect women and girls everywhere from needless toxic chemical exposure. What safer products do you use– or will you think about using and changing your purchases?
image by by himmelskratze on Flickr under CC