The issue of safe feminine hygiene product is rarely discussed, but it’s a vitally important topic for roughly a third of the population.
Our skin is the largest organ in your body, and also the most thinnest. The worst part is that your skin is highly permeable — especially the skin in and around the vaginal area.
Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body.
In average American woman uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime — or up to 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy.
And that’s just only tampons. Many women use different types of sanitary pads, alone or with tampons, and there’s also nursing pads.
Most diapers and sanitary pads that were commonly used in day to day life contain volatile organic compounds (voc) and phthalates and on long-term exposure a significant amount of these harmful chemicals could probably be absorbed via the genitals, according to a new study.
The research study from South Korean in 2017 had found that the new sanitary pads might be causing menstrual problems and irregularities.
More than 15,000 women have complained and signed onto a class action lawsuit claiming harm from menstrual pads by the company Lillian.Women alleged rashes, infections, irregular periods and bad cramping. It was then the pads were removed from the market.
“The physical location of the exposure site, the high absorption rate of the genitalia for chemicals, and the long-term exposure period demand a thorough investigation on the potential impact of the exposure to VOCs and phthalates,” the authors wrote in the study, which will be published in Reproductive Toxicology.
It has been proved that exposure to VOCs increases the risk of brain impairment, asthma, disabilities, certain cancers, and the proper functioning of the reproductive system.
Phthalates were used as plasticizers in many products such as cosmetics, toys, medical devices and other plastics, have been linked to health hazards like endocrine disruption, impacts to the heart and reproductive systems, diabetes, some cancers, and birth defects.
Both sanitary pads— which are the absorbent pads worn by women during menstruation—and the diapers used for babies are made of synthetic plastics.
The plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS disrupt embryonic development and they are linked to heart disease and cancer.
Compound DEHP may lead to multiple organ damage. The Synthetics and plastic restrict air flow and trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting yeast and bacteria growth in your vaginal area.
Also menstrual pads were found to contain several chemicals of concern, including the following:
• styrene: carcinogen
• chloromethane: reproductive toxicant
• chloroethane: carcinogen
• chloroform: carcinogen, reproductive toxicant, neurotoxin
• Acetone: irritant
Conventional sanitary pads also contain other potentially hazardous ingredients, such as odor neutralizers and fragrances.
The scientists found that the product from markets in Korea, Japan, Finland, France, Greece and the United States and found certain VOCs — methylene chloride, toluene, and xylene—and four types of phthalates.(source)
How to test which pad is good?
During a experiment it is found that about 100 percent organic cotton pad, made by Natracare, burns slow and clean, leaving virtually no sooty residue. But the Always Infinity pad with its mostly undisclosed ingredients creates black smoke and thick residue, indicating the pad may contain dioxins, synthetic fibers and petrochemical additives.
The conventional sanitary pads can contain almost the equivalent of about four plastic bags! nd every one know the hazards of using plastic in day to day life.
How do tampons and pads get that ultra-white “clean” look?
Usually chlorine bleach, which can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethane. Studies show dioxin collects in your fatty tissues.dioxin is a serious public health threat that has no “safe” level of exposure! Published reports show that even trace dioxin levels may be linked to:
• Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
• Abnormal cell growth throughout the body
• Immune system suppression
• Hormonal and endocrine system disruption
How are tampons harmful to your health?
Conventional tampons contain pesticides: About $2 billion is used annually on pesticides to spray cotton crops.
Conventional tampons also contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). It was said that according to USDA, 94 percent of all U.S. cotton is genetically engineered.
Tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and artificial fragrances are virtually a chemical soup, laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness and infertility.
Beware of Toxic Shock Syndrome
Tampons create a favorable environment for bacteria growth. if any Micro-tears in the vaginal wall present then from tampons allow bacteria to accumulate.
One infamous risk is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), caused either by the poisonous toxins from Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria.
TSS is a life-threatening condition, so symptom recognition is crucial. Should any of the following symptoms occur during your tampon use, seek medical help immediately:
• Sudden high fever
• Low blood pressure
• Rash on palms or soles of feet
• Muscle aches
• Redness of your eyes, mouth and/or throat
How to minimize your risk from sanitary pad or tampon usage:
• Avoid super absorbent tampons — choose the lowest absorbency rate to handle your flow.
• Never leave a tampon inserted overnight; use overnight pads instead.
• When inserting a tampon, be extremely careful not to scratch your vaginal lining (avoid plastic applicators).
• Alternate the use of tampons with sanitary napkins or mini-pads during your period.
• Change tampons at least every 4-6 hours.
• Do not use a tampon between periods.
Many of today’s feminine hygiene products contain rayon, vicose, and cellulose wood fluff pulp… not cotton, let alone organic cotton.
Rayon and viscose present a potential danger because of their highly absorbent fibers, which can stick to your vaginal wall. Upon removal, the loosened fibers stay behind, raising your TSS risk.
Fortunately, there are safer alternatives. Since the FDA regulates tampon absorbency, all tampons on the market must meet absorption guidelines.
According to Dr. Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Medical Center, 100 percent cotton tampons or sanitary pads must “consistently test under detectable levels for TSS toxins.“
A recent study that was published in Reproductive Toxicology confirms the results of a previous study from 2014 demonstrating about how the feminine care industry sells products containing harmful chemicals, including pesticides, fragrances, dyes and preservatives.
In this study, researchers measured three volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and four phthalates in commercial sanitary pads and diapers. The air inside the packaging was also measured and contained as high as 5.9 parts per billion (ppb) of VOCs.(source)
If you think that your sanitary napkins are safe because they have been certified by official agencies, you will be aggrieved to know that your trust is misplaced. In India, these standards have not been updated since 1980. Experts believe that those standards are so outdated and hence lenient that all the pads, of the meagrest possible quality, will pass the standard.
If you talk about the standards that were put in place by the Bureau of Indian Standards 1980, they are as basic as whether the absorbent fillers are smooth or lumpy and whether the pad surface is soft or rough. As a matter of fact, the toxicity of ingredients does not even make it to the list.
“The absorbent layer is the key component of the napkin and the extent to which this layer is able to absorb and retain the fluid determines the efficiency of the napkin. This bulk layer of a napkin is a non woven web, made of hydrophilic cellulosic staple fibers like wood pulp, cotton linters, viscose etc. Most of the wood pulp used for the purpose is imported, and therefore expensive, increasing the overall cost of a sanitary napkin. Cotton is seen as a major fiber poised to replace wood pulp especially in the feminine hygiene products where less bulky is preferred and thinner is better. The high cost of cotton is the reason why it has not been able to replace pulp,” read Chanana’s paper Design and Development of Low Cost Sanitary Napkins using Cotton Knitwear Waste, which was published in Health Positive, Journal of Best Practices in Clinical Medicine and Public Health, November 2009.
Pads or no pads?
Of course, there are many activists who argue that when only 42 per cent of the country’s women are using pads, some of which are makeshift, the rest are even worse.
And there’s no denying this. Sanitary pads definitely offer a safer and more hygienic option to women who are still using cotton, cloth or mud for menstrual protection, and when they are more than half the country’s women, it is an important movement to provide them accessibility.
However, what about those women who use sanitary napkins but are still not safe from infections? Just because they are better off than the other and bigger half does not mean they are safe.(source)
Few safe and Eco friendly sanitary napkins available in market
The sanitary napkins from Heyday are 100% natural and biodegradable as they are made from plant-based raw materials such as bamboo fibre and corn which have natural sterilization effects.
Nurture pads use hypoallergenic 100% natural cotton, it has a silver-ion chip that keeps you away from bacteria.
Vivanion claims to be India’s first 3-in-1 sanitary napkin with herbal, organic and anion-powered as well as medicinal properties. They are dioxin-free and bio-decomposable within one year.
Saathi sanitary napkins are completely biodegradable and compostable. They are made from a plant-based material such as banana fibre which is extracted from the stems of banana trees. The fact that banana fibre uses six times less water than cotton for production of one ton and ten times fewer fertilizers, and can be easily cultivated as an existing food crop, it does not consume extra resources. The pads degrade within 6 months of disposal.
sanitary pads and tampons use organic cotton and are free from rayon, plastic, dyes, fragrances or latex. They come in biodegradable purse packs.
The core ingredients used in Carmesi pads are bamboo fibre, cornstarch and corn-based bioplastic. Each pad is sealed in their own disposable bags for convenient disposal. You can also buy or gift Carmesi boxes which include pads as well as exquisite goodies such as scented candles, essential oils and tea leaves.
The female hygiene range of Purganics is 100% organic, biodegradable and hypoallergenic. It offers sanitary pads, tampons and panty liners.
Sakhi pads are produced by a self-help group called Saheli in Goa. Made from pine wood paper, cotton, non-woven paper, silicon paper and butter paper, it gets degraded within eight days after burying it in the mud.
The washable and organic cotton cloth pads from EcoFemme are an upgrade towards the regular cloth used by women. And, guess what? You can buy them in your favourite colours and carry them easily in your bags without taking much space
The reusable pads made by SOCH are made from soft fabrics, combed cotton and microfibre. It also sells inter-labia pads, period panties, menstrual cups and period kits.
They are 100% natural vegan and handmade pads. Even the snap buttons are made from coconut shell and wood. (source)
Most diapers and sanitary pads were commonly use in day to day life contain volatile organic compounds (voc) and phthalates and on long-term exposure a significant amount of these harmful chemicals could probably be absorbed via the genitals. Apart from the synthetic , there are sanitary pads which are made of 100 % cotton or there are few eco friendly sanitary napkins available in market that are safe to be used. It is always good to check the labels to conform the ingredients that the products we use have. Check the napkins by the flame test to confirm its safely of the brand before usage.
For more related articles regarding women health :