Before I participated in the first annual Project Green Challenge by Turning Green in 2011, I had a shallow understanding of what it meant to live consciously and very little awareness of what was in the products I use regularly. This was especially true for tampons and pads — products that are so intimately in contact with my most sensitive and absorbent body part.
So today, I want to share with you the top things I’ve learned about feminine care products and how we can all be #PeriodProud and activists. For whether we call it our rag, time of the month, cycle, or another euphemism, talking about our periods can be awkward and uncomfortable. But regardless of the stigma surrounding period talks, we deserve and have the absolute right to know what is in our feminine care products. By asking questions and demanding transparency, we can fight the stigma and fight for cleaner, greener products.
Our vagina is a highly absorbent and sensitive space
What we put on or inside will be easily absorbed through our skin and almost directly into our bloodstream, without any process to help break down and flush out the toxic chemicals. If we have the option to choose non-toxic femcare products, we can reduce the toxic burden on our bodies. For over time, the common chemicals in conventional femcare products can accumulate and increase our risk for cancer, cause oxidative stress, and metabolic changes, and disrupt our endocrine system (Dr. Maggie Ney, N.D; Dr. Joseph Mercola).
Conventional tampons and pads contain numerous known toxic chemicals
What are these known toxic chemicals? A few of the top culprits include:
- Plastic: most conventional pads are made from up to 90% crude-oil (petroleum) based plastic, which contains the toxic compounds benzene, PEG, and BPA.
- Glyphosate: a highly toxic pesticide categorized by the World Health Organization as a known human carcinogen.
- Dioxin: a by-product of bleaching that is also labeled by the World Health Organization as a highly toxic known-human carcinogen. Although assumed to be present in safe levels in an individual tampon or pad, repeated exposure is problematic as dioxon accumulates over time to reach very harmful levels.
- Fragrances: a mixture of hundreds to thousands of undisclosed chemicals. A 2015 study by George Washington University found fragranced femcare products contain contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, developmental issues, dryness, and infertility.
Through chronic exposure, these conventional products can contribute to adverse health issues and harm our planet’s health in the manufacturing and disposal of the products.
Categorized as a medical device by the FDA, companies do not have to disclose the ingredients
You read that right: the FDA does not require femcare companies to share what we are using. This lack of transparency makes it incredibly hard for us to make informed decisions and to avoid these highly toxic common ingredients. Brands such as Natracare exclusively offer plastic-free, non-toxic, organic certified menstrual products.
Women’s Voices of the Earth are currently fighting for companies to #DetoxTheBox. The organization won a huge victory in 2015 when two of the largest feminine care manufacturers—Procter and Gamble and Kimberly Clark—agreed to disclose ingredients in pads and tampons. Learn more about the campaign and how to get involved here.
Femcare products and their plastic applicators are polluting our planet
12,000 is the minimum number of disposable plastic feminine care products the average menstruator will use in their lifetime. Often times it is closer to the 20,000 mark (5 Gyres). That is a lot of opportunities to opt for a more sustainable, plastic-free period and make a difference!
Also, did you know nearly 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons, and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day — many of these end up in our oceans and on our beaches! To combat this environmental issue and promote #PlasticFreePeriods, checkout Natracare’s recent campaign.
In addition to the waste is the unsustainable harvesting of materials and manufacturing of the products. The chemicals that go into the final product that can harm our body’s health also pollutes our earth’s soil and waterways.
The Solution: Purchase and advocate for conscious menstrual products
Choosing an organic, plastic-free tampon and pad is truly a win-win for our health and our environment. By purchasing conscious over conventional femcare products, I’m showing businesses the products I want to use. And by advocating for better policies, I’m telling my representatives the future I want to see! Will you join me?