5 reasons to swap out your period protection for a healthier, more sustainable alternative.
When your period arrives each month, you may or may not think about the impact your choice of period protection carries with it. It’s easy not to, since you may have learned that you are equipped with two ways of keeping your flow under control: pads or tampons. Even those of us who do consider the environmental and health hazards tied to period products tend to shrug it off. Unlike with beauty and food products, we don’t seem to have many options available to us. The fact is, there are many viable alternatives to toxic pads and tampons. These alternatives are not only good-for-you and green, but can be a blessing to your bank account. Before you dismiss them as gross, granola, or simply socially backward, consider these facts:
1. STUDIES HAVE LINKED TOXINS PRESENT IN PADS AND TAMPONS TO INFERTILITY AND CANCER.
If you’re buying organic fruits and vegetables in order to limit your exposure to toxic compounds – why stop there? According to Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), a group that advocates for research into menstrual products’ safety, “Most tampons are made from cotton and/or rayon or other pulp fiber(s) … [and some] pad(s) include traditionally-grown cotton. … Unfortunately these substances can be contaminated with highly toxic dioxins when bleached with chlorine compounds, as well as pesticides from non-organic cotton.” The reason why we should be concerned that the majority of tampons and sanitary pads contain chlorine-bleached cotton and rayon is that its bleached by-product – dioxin – is a known cancer-causing agent. Even ultra-low levels of dioxin are linked with health implications including infertility and pregnancy complications.
To strengthen the idea that we should be as wary about period products as we are about non-organic produce, a recent study conducted by the University of La Plata in Argentina found that up to 85 percent of period products contain Glyphosate, a weed-killing herbicide used by Monsanto. Why worry? The World Health Organization suggested that the herbicide is “probably carcinogenic to humans” and it has been linked to tumour development in mice.
For those of you thinking, “Good point, but tampons and pads have chemicals just like many other products we use-day-to-day. If we aren’t ingesting them, what’s the big deal?” This brings us to our second point:
2. YOUR VAGINA IS HIGHLY ABSORBENT.
It is so absorbent, in fact, that “hormone chemicals, like estrogen especially, will be absorbed vaginally at 10-80 times the rate that the same dose would be absorbed orally.” This figure, offered by Alex Scranton, director of Science and Research at WVE, suggests it is likely that toxic dioxins and herbicides, like Glyphosate, are being rapidly absorbed through your vagina and into your bloodstream.
If your next question is, “Well, can’t we just scan the labels at the store until we find a box absent of these nasty ingredients?” You bring up a good point, but here’s the thing…
3. A LACK OF REGULATION ALLOWS FOR A LACK OF TRANSPARENCY.
Period products are considered to be medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are regulated as such. This means that, unlike with food and personal products that require standard labelling, tampon and pad companies are not required to disclose what their products are made out of on their packaging.
Transparency of female hygiene products may be low, but isn’t that because the FDA claims that it hasn’t found an association between period products and health risks? True. However, the FDA can’t reference studies that don’t exist…
4. THERE IS LITTLE TO NO RESEARCH DISPUTING THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF USING TAMPONS AND PADS OVER A LIFETIME.
While organizations, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suggest a “low acute toxicity” in chemicals like Glyphosate among period products, they are referring to each individual product. Very little research has been done to dispute the negative effects of the prolonged use of tampons and pads, a troubling fact considering a woman who uses tampons each month will use about 11,000 in her lifetime.
According to New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a supporter in the fight for transparency of feminine hygiene products, studies should be focused on determining the effects of the cumulative use of tampons and pads, rather than measuring the toxins of a single product. “Imagine if we only examined the health effects of smoking a single cigarette.”
Despite all signs pointing to STOP USING PADS AND TAMPONS ASAP you may still decide that the modern-day convenience outweighs the risk to your health. But, remember, your personal choice has widespread consequences.
5. FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS HAVE HUGE A ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT.
Let’s think back to the figure we discussed earlier: “A woman will go through an average of 11,000 tampons in her lifetime.” That is a lot of tampons per person! If you think you’re off the hook because you use pads, think again. It is estimated that one pad contains as much plastic as four plastic bags. Clearly, we are discarding a significant number of tampons and pads, and there are environmental consequences. In a Teen Vogue article titled “Should Your Vagina Go Green,” Cara Bondi, research manager at Seventh Generation, told Fawnia Soo Hoo that by avoiding pesticide-rich cotton, “We’re preventing pollution of air, water, and soil and then exposure of humans, wildlife, and plants, too. …the whole system is affected by input of this huge dose of chemicals.” Bondi suggests that the plastic applicators in tampons pose environmental risks as well, since the petroleum in the plastic is a finite resource. She then adds that the indestructible plastic tubes are a threat to marine life. To avoid sending 12 billion pads and seven million tampons to landfills each year, avoid using tampons and/or pads during your next period and every period after that!
Okay, I get it, it’s unhealthy and environmentally irresponsible to use tampons and disposable pads. What do I do when I get my period?
Don’t worry, we wouldn’t leave you hanging. Check out our shopping selects for our sustainable suggestions.
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