Feminine care products are used for the purpose of cleaning, absorbing discharge, moisturizing, or otherwise “healing” the skin and tissues of the vaginal region. Major categories of feminine hygiene products include tampons, sanitary pads, internal cleansers & sprays, panty liners & shields, and disposable razors & blades. Sanitary pads dominate the market among the mentioned feminine hygiene products. However, the continuous use of such products leads to numerous difficulties in women. Test results have also shown furans, dioxins, and pesticide residues in tampons, which have direct links to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. The tampons contaminated with these chemicals continue maintaining contact with vaginal tissue for hours at a time, several days each month, for women who wear them. Thus, causing discomfort. In this article, the potential health consequences of chemicals utilized in synthetic menstrual tampons and pads are examined.
research and demographic differences
The largest market for feminine hygiene
products in 2015 was Asia-Pacific region. It was estimated to be and would
continue to be the leading contributor for the next few years. In 2015, this region
accounted for about 60% of the overall sales of sanitary pads by value. Europe
was the second largest market in 2015, followed by North America, owing to high
penetration of high-end products like tampons, panty liners and internal
cleansers. In the United States, such marketing has created a $3 billion market
for feminine care merchandises successfully. In rural areas of developing
markets like India and China, convenience stores are the prominent distribution
channels. According to companies sponsoring these products, benefits include
creating a fresh feeling, removal of odour, and in the process boosting
secrets behind feminine hygiene products
Nowadays, most feminine products are
composed of rayon, viscose, and non-organic cotton. Viscose and rayon are
potentially harmful as they are made of highly absorbent fibres. These elements
have the ability to stick right into the walls of the vagina. The risk of
developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is significant when the tampon is removed
with the loosened fibres staying behind in our body. Without any filtration, the
chemicals that get inside the system through the skin are absorbed directly
into the bloodstream. All these will eventually end up in the delicate organs
of our bodies. With time, they will accumulate. Why? It’s because these have already
hampered our body from producing enzymes necessary for breaking them down.
what you least expect
One category of toxins that an average
woman would never expect in her feminine care products is pesticides. Yet
independent, third-party-certified testing conducted by Naturally Savvy in 2013
revealed that at least one major tampon brand has up to nine different
pesticide varieties. Although the levels shown are below the maximum allowable
threshold for pesticides in food, these do not meet the FDA’s guidelines
for tampons. The guidelines insist tampons be free of any pesticide residue. Moreover,
the Pesticide Action Network lists malaoxon, procymidone, malathion,
methidathion, fensulfothion, mecarbam and pyrethrum as possible endocrine
disruptors. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed piperonyl
butoxide as a possible human carcinogen, and malathion suggestive of
A commentary published by Organic Slant reads, “Vulvar and vaginal
tissue are different structurally than the skin of the rest of the body. This denotes
that this area is possibly more vulnerable to exposure to toxic chemicals and irritants”.
Age of a female influences the likelihood that she uses certain feminine care
products. A study found that women above 48 were significantly more likely than
younger women to use feminine sprays and wipes.
Secret Toxic Chemicals In Fragrance
feminine hygiene products are fragranced heavily, yet companies just disclose
the generic term ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient. The International Fragrance
Association’s (IFRA) master list of chemicals used in fragrance unfortunately include:
Reproductive toxins like diethyl phthalate
(DEP) and di-isononyl phthalate (DINP);
Disruptors of the Endocrine system like
Galaxolide And Tonalide. These are synthetic musks;
Disinfectants like Triclosan and Ammonium
39 carcinogens like p-dichlorobenzene and
studies have found an association between menstrual pad use and vulvar
irritation or rash. In many cases when women switched to unscented pads or
changed brands, the symptoms were resolved. Talking about feminine wipes, these
can contain formaldehyde which releases preservatives and parabens. Both of
these are linked to increased risk of cancer. In 2013, some of these fragrances
were named ‘Allergens of the year’ by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
survey was conducted on feminine hygiene products and their use among Indian
women of different ages and socio-economic status. 106 responses were recorded
and analysed, providing an idea of how females perceive menstruation and
products used during their cycles. The study was conducted over the age group
of 18-65. This study pertained to women in the Indian demographic although two
of the responses were recorded from Japan.
the results showed?
Maximum use of sanitary pads are by the
age group 18-24.
Age group of 18-24 was found to have the
most prevalence of UTI, although the result may change if more women from other
age groups are included in the survey.
Synthetic pads have the most prevalence in
nearly all age groups.
Normal pads were found to be more in use
than super-absorbent ones (Night Pads)
An average of a 5 day menstrual cycle was
Most age groups were found not comfortable
using cotton because of regular changing requirement.
Disease prevalence in all age groups after
menstruation was not high. Most have no discomfort, although rashes are common.
It is suggested 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.
It is important to eliminate use
of products unnecessary to a healthy vagina. Furthermore, women should look for
brands that disclose all ingredients, including fragrance ingredients. Trying
washable, reusable menstrual pads is another alternative. Putting an effort in
substituting brands of products you believe may be associated with allergic
symptoms is necessary. Additionally, reading labels of products, wherever
available, is imperative to avoid questionable chemicals as mentioned above. Talking
to your gynaecologist about use of feminine hygiene products that might be
affecting your health is one of the basic ways to avoid any reproductive health
Improvement in Screening of Ingredients
need to create as well as implement enhanced ingredient safety screens in order
to rule out ingredients that may pose unnecessary health risks. Particularly, feminine
hygiene enterprises should introduce polices to remove the use of mutagens,
reproductive toxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors from products. Further
screening should be carried out for feminine care products so as to ensure
safety of use on mucous membranes.
Increase in Research
better understand the potential effects of chemical exposure on vaginal and
vulvar tissue, extensive research is required from the scientific community.
Health differences for feminine hygiene product users on the basis of age,
race, and socio-economic status should be examined too. Moreover surveys of
product use are obligatory to fill data gaps for unstudied demographic groups like
Asian-American and aboriginal women.
Ms. Adeela Hameed, M.Sc. EVS student at AIES, Amity University
Dr. Richa Dave Nagar, Assistant Professor, AIES, Amity University