A report with a focus on the dangers connected with many feminine personal care and hygiene products was published by a women’s advocacy group fighting to get rid of toxic chemicals from the environment and consumer products.
The published report by the Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) “Chem Fatale” focuses on the toxic chemicals that are still a part of feminine products like deodorants and tampons, which expose many women to health issues like endocrine disruption, reproductive problems and cancer.
The report especially targets the consumer Procterr & Gamble, which is the company that manufactures one of the most popular feminine care product brands like Always and Tampax. The goal of WVE is to raise the awareness about the effects of the chemicals that are contained in these products, and to force major companies like P&G to remove them, or at least start labelling them.
According to the director of science and research at WVE and the author of the new report Alexandra Scranton feminine care products are not just average cosmetics because they are mostly used on a very sensitive and absorbent part of the body. In order to assure the safety of the ingredients being used in the products for women we need greater research, scrutiny and oversight.
Tampons and feminine pads are regulated as “medical devices”
A big concern is that feminine pads and tampons are currently being regulated as “medical devices” by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Because these two products are not considered to be cosmetic by nature, manufacturers are not obliged to disclose their ingredients on the package and most of them don’t.
Currently the regulations used on chemicals in feminine care products are not sufficient enough to protect the public health, and very often do not require the ingredient disclosure essential to assess safety according to WVE. Companies are not required to disclose any ingredients in manufactured products like tampons and pads because they are considered and regulated as medical devices.
WVE hopes to make a change to this because of the fact that these products are typically used on sensitive areas of the body. According to WVE, pads and tampons may contain chemicals like pesticide residues and dioxins, which can be the cause of cancer, and also hormone disruptors like parabens that are more easily absorbed by vaginal tissue than by the skin.
According to the report ingredients are determined as safe due to the assumption that they are used on ordinary skin like other cosmetic products. This means that chemicals like carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxins and allergens are being used on the extremely permeable mucus membranes of the vaginal area.
Mystery “fragrance” ingredients in feminine care products are a health threat
A lot of feminine care products that are designated as “cosmetics” are also a threat to the health because they contain carious chemicals including “fragrance” ingredients, which do not have to be labelled because they are protected from the current law as “trade secrets”.
“Fragrance” is a mixture of different ingredients that can contain over 3000 different dangerous chemicals, and the ingredients of the fragrance are commonly kept a secret by the manufacturers. Fragrances can contain chemicals that are carcinogens, irritants allergens and potential endocrine disruptors according to a list of fragrance chemicals made accessible by the International Fragrance Association.
Almost every type of feminine care products, from pads and tampons to washes, wipes, deodorants, douches and anti-itch creams, contain added fragrances, which is the reason why WVE is fighting for women everywhere to stop using all products with added fragrances. The group is also concerned about the fact that chemicals like methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone, preservative that can cause contact dermatitis are being used in feminine care products.
Data reveals high level of pesticides in tampons
One of the toxins that a woman would never expect in the feminine care products is pesticides. A testing conducted by the group Naturally Savvy in 2013 showed that at least one major tampon company contains up to nine different pesticides. In the study, these residues were examined:
- Malathion and malaoxon : 1 ppm (parts per million)
- Dichlofluanid -1 ppm
- Mecarbam – 6 ppm
- Procymidone – 37 ppm
- Methidathion -5 ppm
- Fensulfothion – 5 ppm
- Pyrethrum – 66 ppm
- Piperonyl butoxide -1 ppm
Even though these levels are lower than the maximum allowed threshold for pesticides in food, they are not in compliance to the FDA’s guidelines for tampons, which is that tampons should be free of pesticide residue. In addition the pesticide action network lists malaoxon, malathion, mecrabam, methidathion, procymidone, pyrethrum and fensulfothion as endocrine disruptors, while the U.S. EPA (environmental protection agency) mentions piperonyl butoxide as a possible human carcinogen.
Switch from conventional feminine care products to natural alternatives
WVE advises women not only to change to safer, cleaner alternatives such as chlorine-free, unscented, unbleached pads and tampons, but to also lower their overall use of feminine care products. Reducing the overall use of feminine care products and not using products that may be harmful to a healthy vagina is crucial for women.
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