Yes, women are being poisoned by toxic chemicals from feminine hygiene products
A women’s advocacy group fighting to eliminate toxic chemicals from consumer products and the environment has published a new report highlighting the dangers associated with many feminine hygiene and personal care products. Entitled Chem Fatale, the paper by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) addresses the many toxic chemicals still being used in feminine products like tampons and deodorants, which expose women to a host of chemicals linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive problems and cancer.
The report specifically targets the consumer giant Procter & Gamble (P&G), which manufactures Tampax and Always, two of the most popular feminine care product brands in North America. According to a press release announcing the new paper, WVE’s goal is to raise awareness about the dangers of the chemicals found in these products, and to push major corporations like P&G to remove them, or at the very least start labeling them.
“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, director of science and research at WVE and author of the new report. “Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of their ingredients on women’s health.”
Tampons, pads regulated as “medical devices”; ingredient disclosure optional
Of particular concern to the group are tampons and feminine pads, both of which are currently regulated as “medical devices” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since these two product classes are not considered under the law to be cosmetic in nature, manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients on packaging – and not surprisingly, most of them don’t!
“Current regulations on chemicals used in feminine care products are not sufficient to protect public health, and often don’t require the ingredient disclosure needed to assess safety,” explains WVE. “Tampons and pads are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies are not required to disclose any ingredients in these products.”
But WVE hopes to change this by drawing attention to the sensitive nature of the areas on women’s bodies where these products are typically used. According to the group, conventional tampons and pads may contain chemicals like dioxins and pesticide residues, which can cause cancer, as well as hormone disruptors like parabens ‒ parabens have also been shown to cause cancer ‒ that are much more easily absorbed by vaginal tissue than by regular skin.
“Ingredients are determined ‘safe’, operating under the premise that they are used on ordinary skin just like other cosmetic products”, reads the report. “That means chemicals of concern such as carcinogens, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, and allergens are being used on, or even in, the extremely permeable mucus membranes of the vaginal area.”
Mystery “fragrance” ingredients in feminine care products also a health hazard
Many feminine care products designated as “cosmetics” are also problematic, as they contain all sorts of added chemicals including “fragrance” ingredients, which as we previously reported do not have to be individually labeled, because they are protected under current law as “trade secrets.”
“Unfortunately, a ‘fragrance’ is a mixture of ingredients that can include any of over 3,000 different chemicals; and the components of any one fragrance are usually kept secret by manufacturers,” explains the report. “According to a master list of fragrance chemicals made available by the International Fragrance Association, fragrances can include chemicals which are carcinogens, irritants, allergens, and potential endocrine disruptors.”
Nearly every category of feminine care product, from tampons and pads to wipes, washes, deodorants, anti-itch creams and douches, contains added fragrances, which is why WVE is urging women everywhere to avoid all fragranced products. The group is also concerned about the use of chemicals like methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone, two preservatives linked to causing contact dermatitis.
Data reveal high levels of pesticides in tampons
One category of toxins that the average woman would likely never expect in her feminine care products is pesticides, and yet independent, third-party-certified testing conducted by the group Naturally Savvy back in 2013 revealed that at least one major tampon brand contains up to nine different pesticides varieties.
According to the study, the following residues were observed:
• Malathion and malaoxon (metabolite): 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
Though these levels are all below the maximum allowable threshold for pesticides in food, they do not meet the FDA’s guidelines for tampons, which should be “free of pesticide residue.” Additionally, the Pesticide Action Network lists malathion, malaoxon, mecarbam, procymidone, methidathion, fensulfothion and pyrethrum as possible endocrine disruptors, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists piperonyl butoxide as a “possible human carcinogen,” with malathion “suggestive of carcinogenicity.”
“Vulvar and vaginal tissue are structurally different than the skin of the rest of the body,” reads a commentary published by Organic Slant. “That means this area of the body is potentially more vulnerable to exposure to toxic chemicals and irritants.”
Stop using conventional feminine care products and switch to natural alternatives
WVE suggests that women not only switch to safer, cleaner alternatives such as unscented, chlorine-free, unbleached tampons and pads but possibly even reduce their overall use of feminine care products. In its report, the group cites recommendations from the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists against intra-vaginal cleaning (douching) and using most feminine sprays and powders, which are loaded with additives and chemicals.
“Reduce your use of feminine care products… [and] eliminate use of products that may be unnecessary to a healthy vagina,” advises WVE. Also, women should choose “unscented products where available (particularly tampons and pads)… [and] look for brands that disclose all ingredients, including fragrance ingredients.”
You can read the full Chem Fatale report on toxins in feminine care products here: http://www.womensvoices.org
November 12, 2016