No doubt you have read about the environmental damage done by disposable pads and tampons, and of course by single use wet wipes.
It’s likely that you don’t know about the enormous impact these products have on the health of those of us who use them.
This is why, we have decided to talk about this and tell you what the consequences are of using disposable period products.
Oh, and if you don’t menstruate and you think this topic doesn’t apply to you, we would like to ask you to reconsider and to give us 5 minutes of your time by reading this article. The more people who know about this the better, as it will help all of us to talk about this topic with those around us and to inform others we know.
The health effects of disposable period products
As this study from 2004 says, the skin of the vulva and the vagina is more permeable and therefore potentially more vulnerable to exposure to toxic chemical products and irritants, however:
- Not enough research has been done into the impact of direct exposure of vaginal skin to each of the commonly used chemicals.
- All of the traditionally used disposable menstrual products contain ingredients that are potentially dangerous for our health.
In fact, according to Women’s Voices for the Earth, the health effects of menstrual care products like pads, tampons and single use wipes are catastrophic.
Disposable period pads:
Disposable pads are made from a mixture of plastic and cellulose. They contain dioxins and furans, residual pesticides, unspecified chemical fragrances and preservatives like methyldibromo glutaronitrile, which could be linked to cancer, reproductive harm and hormonal disruption. In addition, according to this organisation, the use of disposable pads are sometimes related to the appearance of allergies in the vaginal region.
Tampons are manufactured using dangerous ingredients such as dioxins and furans (originating from the chlorine-based whitening processes), leftover pesticides and unspecified chemical fragrances, all ingredients that may be associated with cancer, reproductive problems, hormonal imbalances and the appearance of allergies.
Wet wipes may contain methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, triclosan, and unknown chemical fragrances. Exposure to these wipes is related to the development of cancer and endocrine disruption, as well as dermatitis and allergies in the vaginal area.
Why these toxic period products are still on the market
If you have read up to here, you may be thinking: “so, if all this is so bad for us, why haven’t these products been banned?”.
The answer is not a straight forward one.
As explained by Professor Nicolás Olea in his book “Libérate de tóxicos” (meaning Free yourself of toxins in English), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) must trust the quality of the studies and data provided by the manufacturing corporations.
Which also means: that no other European public entity carries out independent studies on these products to show that the chemicals present in their make up are harmless to women. They simply trust the studies done by the manufacturers themselves.
The secrecy associated with toxic chemicals
To top this off, it is also not helpful that there is secrecy within the industry that is only interested in protecting its bottom-line.
For example the fragrances used.
According to the organisation Safe Cosmetics a fragrance is a mixture of ingredients and may include up to 3,059 different chemicals, amongst which one can find toxic chemicals that have been linked to certain health effects, such as cancer.
Despite this, the majority of the companies that manufacture these products do not specify the chemical make up of the fragrances used on the label. Thereby, it is impossible to know the product’s true composition.
Try it next time you are in a supermarket. Grab a pack of those widely advertised extra thin pads offering great protection and read the list of ingredients: They don’t tell you what the “fragrance” contains, right?
What can you do?
Make the swap to a healthier (and more sustainable) form of period protection
If you are looking for a healthier alternative to disposable pads, reusable fabric pads are a great option. They are soft, comfortable and toxin-free.
If you get anxious about leaking, we assure you that there is nothing to worry about, because there are different types of fabric pads for all levels of flow: panty liners for the first and last days of your period, normal everyday pads for regular flow, extra absorbent pads for heavy flow and super absorbent pads for night-time and after childbirth.
Forget about using tampons, with all those toxic chemicals, and switch to using a menstrual cup: made of medical-grade silicone derived from silica and with a lifespan of around 10 years, it will be your best friend when it comes to dealing with your monthly period.
An added bonus, the cup adjusts to the size of your vagina. Don’t hesitate to ask us if you need some advice when it comes to choosing the right size to suit your body.
The great revolution of the last decade: hygienic protection in the form of a brief or pant that usually replaces the use of 3-4 tampons. They offer all day protection and care for our skin if you choose those made from organic cotton. They are available in various designs and a wide range of sizes from those for 14 year olds up to a woman’s size 48.
The perfect swap for avoiding the use of wet wipes during your period is to try organic cotton fabric wipes like these.
If you need to use them away from home, you can take a small stainless steel bottle of water with you (to dampen them and later rinse them if there is no tap) and a small container to store them in until you get home (you could use one like this or a re-purposed plastic version – for example, a container you might have lying around from a dip or paté you ate).
Talk about this:
Share this article with the women and men in your life. The more we talk about this subject, the harder it gets to keep it a secret.
Further reading we recommend: