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The Toxic Truth About Menstrual Products

Updated on October 29, 2016

Last fall, my mother admitted that she didn't understand my blog. One day I was writing about wedding dress shopping, another day I was talking about tackling tough towel odor or making your own in-wash scent boosters, and then a DIY dog shampoo. It's who I am - I love to write about anything and everything. Lovingly, my mother asked me, "Why don't you write about something that matters?" Now, I have a strong feeling that my mother was not suggesting I write about menstrual products, but today, that is exactly what I will be doing - examining the toxic truth about menstrual products.

Suspecting I might have an allergy or sensitivity to something in the conventional menstrual products that I was using, I decided to take a look at the list of ingredients to see if I could narrow down the possibilities. To my surprise, such lists were not readily available. Because menstrual products are classified as 'medical devices', companies are not required to list the ingredients. After a few moments of pure disbelief, followed by a few moments of fact checking, I was speechless. I'll admit, I was also a little angry.

Given that manufacturers are not required to list their ingredients, it should come as no surprise that there are no regulations requiring them to specify 'GM cotton' on labels.

In her YouTube video, 'Period Hatin', Laci Green talks about the widely accepted idea that we should not talk openly about our periods and that it is something we should conceal. Ideas such as these are why I have been using conventional menstrual products without knowing what they contain. It was never something I ever thought to question but instead something I simply accepted.

I can still feel myself blushing as I type this, but when I first heard of the menstrual cup two years ago, I didn't think of it as a healthier alternative because the thought of conventional menstrual products containing chemicals had never crossed my mind. I assumed the benefits of alternatives were purely environmental and financial.

The truth is, conventional pads and tampons contain a number of potentially dangerous chemicals.

Dioxin

Dioxin is a by-product of chlorine-bleaching, which is a process used to whiten pads and tampons and a known human carcinogen, is one of the most dangerous chemicals that conventional menstrual products contain.

Dioxin, which gets stored in the fatty tissues of the body 1, has been linked to immune system suppression, and reproductive and developmental problems 2, as well as cancer, infertility, Endometriosis and organ failure 1.

Not all conventional pads and tampons contain dioxin, but because manufacturers are not required to list what their products contain, we don't know for sure which ones contain it and which ones don't 1.

Pesticides

Although cotton crops account for only 2.4% of the world's total cropland, they use 16% of the world's supply of pesticides, which costs more than $2 billion annually 3.

Some of the most common pesticides used on cotton are aldicarb, parathion and methamidopho 3.

Non-organic cotton is one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops in the world.

Pesticide exposure has been linked to cancer, reproductive and neurological issues, suppressed immune function, obesity, heart disease and autism 3.

The conventional [non-organic] cotton pads and tampons readily available are likely made from cotton that has been sprayed with pesticides.

I know a lot of people who say that the only reason they are not put off by the thought of pesticides being used on food they eat is because they wash it before consuming. But what about menstrual products? We can assume they go through some sort of cleaning process, but that likely involves more chemicals. We don't purchase conventional menstrual products and then wash them prior to using. We remove conventional menstrual products from their packaging and we use them immediately.

Other Chemicals

In addition to dioxin and pesticides, conventional pads and tampons may also contain synthetic fibers such as rayon and polyester, genetically modified cotton, glues and adhesives, artificial dyes and fragrances, BPA, phthalates, polyethylene, polypropylene, odor neutralizing chemicals and propylene glycol 4.

Synthetic materials such as polyester and miscellaneous plastics limit air circulation, which can contribute to bacterial and yeast infections. And, synthetic fibers found in conventional tampons can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a potentially fatal illness.

Sodium Polyacrylate, an extremely absorbent polymer that becomes a gel when wet, is found in pads 5. This gel can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions that include fever, vomiting, and in some cases, staph infections 5.

Did you know?

Regardless of whether you use pads or tampons, chemicals found in conventional pads and tampons can be absorbed into the blood stream.

Unfortunately, this issue lacks the attention and research that it needs. We should know exactly what we are putting in or on our bodies and what risks are associated with the use of these products. And, potentially harmful chemical-filled menstrual products should be removed from the market.

Are you concerned about the chemicals in conventional menstrual products?

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