Feminine care products are a fact of life for most women. They’re as personal as it gets — we put them inside ourselves, for goodness sake. Yet I was recently shocked to learn that there’s no law preventing the feminine care industry from selling products made with unregulated and potentially harmful chemicals.
These products, from tampons to feminine wipes, contain preservatives, pesticides, fragrances and dyes that are at best unregulated, and at worst, known chemical toxins that have been linked to serious health problems.
A new report by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) exposes the risk women take every time we use one of these products. The report, titled ”Chem Fatale,” explains how the vast majority of products meant to be used in and around the sensitive vaginal area “are marketed and sold with little to no data assuring the ingredients they contain are safe.”
“Feminine care products are not just your average cosmetics because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbent part of a woman’s body,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s director of science and research and author of the report, in a press release. “Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of their ingredients on women’s health.”
So what exactly are we exposing ourselves to when we use these products?
The report found that using everyday items like tampons, pads, douche and feminine anti-itch cremes means exposing sensitive areas to dioxins and furans (from the chlorine bleaching process), pesticide residues, parabens, and unknown adhesive and fragrance chemicals. Shockingly, the chemicals found in these products have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, HIV transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, chronic yeast infections and infertility.
A whopping 85 percent of menstruating women use tampons, but according to the report, these chemicals disproportionately affect black and Latina women as they are greater users of products such as douche and feminine wipes. Black women are more likely to use feminine sprays and powders than women of other races and ethnicities.
“Chem Fatale” is shocking, yes, but the report’s authors hope that the findings will jar women into action. WVE is launching a new campaign that will target Proctor & Gamble, makers of Tampax and Always, to disclose the ingredients in tampons and pads and eliminate toxic chemicals. The campaign will also encourage consumers to demand more government oversight of the $3 billion feminine care industry.
Ultimately, they hope public outcry will encourage political leaders to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act (H.R. 1385 introduced in the 113th Congress). “This bill will improve regulation of cosmetic and personal care products to better ensure these products are safe for consumer use. The bill would also grant greater authority and resources to the FDA for improved regulation and oversight of cosmetic product safety,” states WVE.
They encourage women to consult the Chemicals of Concern fact sheet when shopping for feminine care products and to switch to non-toxic alternatives, like the Diva Cup, Jade & Pearl Sea Sponge Tampons or 100 percent certified organic cotton tampons and pads from Natracare.
The report also includes a “Hall of Shame“ appendix highlighting examples of feminine care products that contain toxic chemicals by brand name. View it here.
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