Are we lady-folk slowly poisoning ourselves every month with harmful low doses of carcinogenic and toxic cotton found in our feminine products? It’s a dirty little secret that the feminine hygiene industry wants to keep from you, but is long overdue for a serious discussion and widespread attention.
Hot topics like the “dirty-dozen”, BPA-free plastics, mineral makeup, Eco-friendly and non-toxic cleaning products are all things I’ve been more attracted to learning about and incorporating into my life over the last few years. In addition to the notoriously harmful chemicals found in our foods, cosmetics, and cleaning products, more recently I’ve learned of other sneaky sources of carcinogenic exposure found in everyday items like our furniture! Eek! However, one area I have sadly yet to broach with many of my lady friends is the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals hiding out in our feminine products!!! Ladies we need to talk. Here’s what I’ve discovered…
On average, a woman will use about 11,000 tampons, and countless pads and panty liners throughout her life. All of which will come into direct contact with sensitive highly permeable skin. Most of these products are made with cotton or a cotton/rayon blend. If you don’t know let me tell you, cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world, with five of the top nine chemicals typically used classified as possible carcinogens.1
I recently read an article about toxic tampons citing “Chem Fatale” – a report released by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) – which attempts to shed some light on this subject by taking aim at the $3 billion a year feminine care industry. Specifically, pads and tampons used by 85% of women, are found to contain harmful ingredients including pesticides, dyes and dioxin, which have been identified by the World Health Organization as a ‘Persistent Organic Pollutant”, a toxic chemical that persists in environments for long periods of time.
More specifically, dioxin and trihalomethanes are a byproduct of chlorine bleaching and are found in some levels in chemically bleached cotton and rayon, which guess what you already know by now? Your tampons and pads are made from cotton/rayon, that’s right! Just think, that tampon or pad you’re wearing pressed up against your skin and in some cases coming in direct contact with your blood stream for many hours daily, about one week a month, is exposing you to dioxin and other chemicals that could have potentially serious health effects even in low levels. For it’s part, rayon is made from wood pulp bleached with toxic chlorine, again a process that creates dangerous cancer-causing dioxins, which can contaminate the final product. Add to that artificial fragrances which can irritate skin and often contain phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals.1 There’s more, if you thought dioxin and phthalates were your biggest problem, think again. Feminine hygiene products have been found to contain quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which release formaldehyde – a known carcinogen to humans.
Okay, okay breath! So you relax thinking easy enough, I’ll just read the labels of my feminine products and stop using products listing these ingredients, problem solved. Uh-uh! Not so easy, herein lies the problem; because tampons and pads are labeled “medical devices” their industry does not require the disclosure of any of their ingredients. Sneaky bastards!
Here’s the fix! In regards to tampons and pads/panty liners that c’mon can’t be eliminated from use, simply switch to an organic brand of feminine hygiene products. Look for “unscented” or “fragrance free” products that have not been bleached with chlorine, are made from organic cotton and are plastic free (think panty liners). My personal favorite is the Natracare Line of tampons and panty liners made from 100% certified organic cotton and are totally chlorine free. I have been trying to reduce my plastic waste, so I opt for the non-applicator versions, but I get it, not everyone can get down like that. So they do offer an applicator version, for you vagina’s out there, I mean your vagina’s out there. Also, their feminine hygiene products are no more expensive than Tampax or any other drugstore brand for that matter.
So that’s it my friends. Equipped with the knowledge of this dirty little secret and resources for a safe alternative, don’t let this seemingly harmless, sneaky toxic infiltrator into your body any more. Say no to one more chemical!
Written by Mel