As women, we don’t fully appreciate the tremendous buying power we have. We’re keenly aware of how much we spend on groceries, clothes, bills, and makeup but don’t stop to consider how much we spend on feminine hygiene products? According to the Euro Monitor International report, we spend over 2 billion dollars a year on tampons, pads, washes, sprays and powders.

    These are products we use regularly and buy for a good forty years or more in our lifetime. Yet, did you ever stop to question the safety of what you are putting on and in your body?

    Many of these products contain harmful. It doesn’t make sense to fret over the chemicals in our household products but don’t give a second thought to what we rub, spray, or insert into our private parts.

    The skin in our vaginal region is some of the most sensitive skin on our bodies. Like all skin, it breathes in and absorbs whatever it’s exposed to yet it is far more absorbent than the skin on our arms and face. It can’t tell what’s good from what’s bad so it takes in toxins just as easily as it takes in Calendula cream. That’s problematic. Especially since chemicals absorbed by vaginal skin don’t get metabolized which means they are far more potent going into your blood.

    Case in point: in October 2016, a judgment made the company Johnson & Johnson after the court found sufficient evidence to show a link between ovarian cancer and use of J&J talc-based baby powder.

    The International Agency for Research on Cancer also considers the use of talc-based body powder on the genitals as potentially carcinogenic to humans. Although there are no definitive studies, there is enough evidence to show increased risk. You just need to ask yourself if the risk is worth the benefit.

    There’s also a considerable amount of conflicting information on the internet about the use of synthetic chemicals in making tampons. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) insists that the harmful chemicals that caused potentially fatal Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) have long since been removed.

    It goes on to promise consumers that dioxins, a known environmental chemical pollutant, which is a by-product of the process of bleaching wood pulp needed to make tampons “are at or below detectable limits”. However, the FDA admits that the manufacturing process is dioxin-free but the sources materials (cotton and rayon) may contain trace elements of dioxin.

    The FDA suggests that such minute traces of dioxin pose no risk to women. Yet there has not been a single long-term study of the effects of this exposure over 40 years of use. And the FDA does not take into account that this chemical gets stored in our fat tissue and can accumulate to toxic levels on long periods of use.

    You should also know that synthetic fragrances added to mask odors often contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that are also irritants. Even the cotton being used poses a potential risk since the cotton is grown from genetically modified seeds.

    The Wrap Up

    You can protect yourself by choosing wisely. Know what’s in your products so you can make informed decisions based on what you think is best. Know that you have options to use products made with safe materials like organic cotton.

    Best Practices Include:

    • Do not use talc-based products.
    • Avoid washes, sprays, creams, and powders that contain chemicals or fragrances.
    • Opt for tampon inserts made from cardboard inserts and not plastic.
    • Choose applicator-free tampons.
    • Don’t use tampons overnight.
    • Change tampons every 4-6 hours.
    • Look for brands that offer natural alternatives, like Seventh Generations, Organyc, Natracare.

    More importantly, prove your buying power by refusing to buy products from companies who don’t seem to care. If the company makes a highly toxic detergent, do you really feel safe buying your feminine hygiene products from them? When companies start to lose profits, they get very interested in hearing from consumers. They desperately try to understand the trends and mindset of consumers. Let them know that your health and safety is the new trend.

    Let me know your thoughts. Share your question or thoughts in the comment box below.

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    Euromonitor International. Country Report: Sanitary Protection in the US. London, UK: Euromonitor International (June 2013).

    Environmental Health Perspectives

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