Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Each year millions of people around the world take the challenge and choose to refuse single-use plastics. This includes –but not limited to- single-use straws, grocery bags, water bottles, juice and milk cartons, razors, and menstrual products.
Wait, did I just say menstrual products? Hmm, I sure did!
Since I transitioned to using menstrual cups, I have not taken a walk along the menstrual products aisle. But when I did, I noticed this: the ingredients of pads and tampons were disclosed. The FDA considers tampons and pads to be medical devises; therefore, listing the ingredients is not a requirement. There are no regulations nor laws that require manufacturers or companies to enclose what is in their products, till this day.
Sounds sketchy? Well, it is!
If you think about it, wouldn’t it be of the same importance to know what touches your mouth, vulva and vagina alike? Our mouths and vaginas are the primary openings into our bodies. They are not isolated organs that are not affected by or affecting others. They are part of the whole. Dryness of the vaginal canal by using tampon, chemicals used in disposable pads, and pads with perfume, deodorant, and bleach are only a few examples to which we can raise so many questions.
Women’s Voices for the Earth started commissioning some initial testing of menstrual pads for volatile organic compounds in 2014. Following the publication of their results, many other organizations, media outlets, and government health agencies worldwide started conducting their own tests as well. Some of these chemicals found in pads and tampons are Benzene, Methyl ethyl ketone, Chloroform, and chlorine – all having potential health impact of exposure e.g. Reproductive toxicity, irritation, cancer, and anemia. “While a few studies have attempted to assess and measure potential risks of these products, all have indicated that there is more work to be done to better understand the impacts these products may have.” Women’s Voices for the Earth stated.
A menstruating woman will use 11 thousand pads throughout her lifetime. It is estimated that approximately 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators are being sent to North America landfills annually, that would take 500 years to biodegrade. This is an epidemic that we have the resources and technology to resolve through switching to reusable sustainable products e.g. menstrual cups, cotton and bamboo reusable pads, menstrual disks, and period pants.
Why do we need plastic applicators anyway? Because god forbid a woman touched her body while inserting a tampon?! It’s worrying to think of a fully grown woman who has not looked at her vulva/or touched herself ever before. I get it if you find reusable pads or menstrual cups uncomfortable, and that is valid! Do not blame or judge yourself. Women around the world have been through decades of conditioning to think of their bodies and Period as either shameful or annoying. Using a reusable product will start breaking that taboo and get you in an intimate position with your body – You will see the blood, you will tough your vulva, and you will connect to that wisdom. I ask you to be kind to yourself and be open.
By switching to a reusable product, you are changing the lens of looking at your body. You start connecting and paying attention to certain aspects of it that you have not considered before -like how much blood you shed during your period. You start developing a new respect to your body’s wisdom, and start taking care of it the way it is taking care of you.
I ditch the disposable pads and switched to menstrual cups 3 years ago, and I am never going back. Today, I cannot imagine my life without my cups. My period pain reduced dramatically after the switch, which is huge win in my book. I love how reusable menstrual products saved me money in the long run. It is an investment to buy a cup or a set of reusable pads at first, but trust me, they are going to last you for YEARS! They are zero waste and environmentally friendly. They are beautiful, aesthetically pleasing to look at, and extremely comfortable to wear. Most importantly, they are a solution to a health and environmental epidemic our planet is battling right now, and your choices alone can be of a huge impact!
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Women's Voice for the Earth: Toxic chemicals don’t belong in feminine products. Period.
Women's Voices for the Earth: What’s in Period Products? A Timeline of Chemical Testing