I know it can sound kind of alarmist to worry about the toxins in sanitary pads and tampons. But our skin is more permeable than you might think—especially the skin around the vagina. When you start to think of the vagina as a sieve, rather than a wall, you immediately start questioning the wisdom of conventional personal care standards: pad and tampons filled with bleach, synthetic materials, plastics, and chemicals. Instead of supporting true feminine hygiene, are you in fact creating a pesticide party in your pants?
One of the biggest problems with the feminine products industry is that manufacturers don’t have to disclose the ingredients they use. So how do they get around “disclosure labeling?” Through an FDA loophole that calls feminine hygiene medical devices. Not needing to disclose means all kinds of additives that may pose serious health risks may be lurking in your feminine hygiene devices.
The suspected risks include endometriosis, cervical cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and of course toxic shock syndrome. While here and there a conventional tampon or pad incurs minimal risk, cumulative exposure does add up. Apparently, the average American woman uses around 15,000 tampons in her lifetime—and almost double that if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy. Even though the alternatives may be pricier or seem more of a hassle, your reproductive system is well worth the fuss. Here are some of the biggest red flags to watch out for in conventional products.
Sourced mostly from crude oil plastic, each conventional sanitary pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags. All in all, typical pads add roughly 180 billion plastic bags to our waste stream.
Chlorine bleached wood pulp and cotton can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection-by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethane. In lab rats, dioxin exposure was linked to cancer.
Pesticides and GMO
Tampons contain conventional cotton, which in this country means they are heavily laden with pesticide residues and probably contain GMOs. Cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop, so inserting a tampon may be tantamount to inserting an absorbent bolt of fungicide into your most intimate permeable tissue.
Laced with odor neutralizers and other fragrances, as well as artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene and propylene glycol (PEG), conventional tampons and pads are full of chemicals linked to hormone disruption. While there is a growing awareness on the deleterious affects associated with chemicals in skincare, most women would like to believe what happens in their underwear stays in their underwear. Not so. As alluded to above, skin is the most permeable of our organs as well as the biggest.
If you are looking for savvy alternatives to the conventional, a good place to start would be disposable organic or disposable chlorine-free products. Ultimately, the most eco-friendly way to go is reusable cups or pads, such as the Diva Cup or Glad Rags. It might seem strange at first to be on such intimate terms with your menses, but it will come to feel much more natural than getting up close and personal with plastics, bleach, and cotton doused with toxins.