If it’s made to go inside your vagina, it can’t possibly be that bad, right? In a perfect world, the answer would be yes. However, we are living in a world that’s far from perfect, which means products aren’t always regulated in the ways we would hope.
Many big name brands are able to get away with toxic chemicals in their period products due to lack of government oversight. Whether you’re new to period products, or a seasoned user, this is important for every woman with a menstrual cycle to know. We’re going to make sure you know what’s safe to put inside your Vee, and what you should avoid at all costs if you’re able to.
What Harmful Chemicals Are Found In Period Products?
Over the years studies have revealed a laundry list of toxic ingredients in period products. These can be found in all sorts of period products like tampons, pads, panty liners and even period underwear. Lack of research around the safety of period products is a large contributer to their lack of safe ingredients.
We’ll go through some of the most prominent chemicals found in period products. Just to be clear, these are not found in ALL period products. There are absolutely products out there that are safe and healthy, you just need to do research to find them.
PhthalatesUsed in a variety of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, phthalates are chemical compounds that are added to products to make plastics more durable or flexible. These can be found in building materials, vinyl flooring, wood finishes, insecticides, and much, much more… With that being said, if it’s found in products that you use to kill insects or renovate your home, it certainly doesn’t belong anywhere in or near your most sensitive area.
ParabensParabens are a group of man-made chemicals that are used as artificial preservatives. They typically are used to increase the shelf life of a product and to help prevent any bacteria overgrowth. You can find these in all sorts of cosmetic products like deodorant, lotion and sunscreen. This unfortunately makes them hard to stay away from unless you do careful research to find products without them.
BisphenolsTo put it simply, bisphenols (BPAs) are used to make polycarbonate plastic. These are often used in products like plastic containers, canned foods, car parts or toys. CDC scientists found that BPA exposure is so prominent in our everyday lives that in a study of 2,517 people, they were found in the urine of nearly all people tested.
TCCTCC (triclocarban) is an antibacterial agent also used in cosmetics like soaps or toothpaste. TCC helps to prevent bacteria growth, which lengthens the shelf life of products. It can also be used as an active ingredient in household and medical disinfectant products.
RayonRayon is a synthetic material used in period products for its ability to absorb liquids well. This makes them technically more effective than if they were made with 100% cotton, but at the cost of the effect that they have on a woman’s body. While it’s certainly convenient to have leak-proof, long lasting products, it’s not worth it to risk your health.
Why Are These Chemicals Allowed In Period Products?
Period products like tampons and sanitary pads are labeled as “medical devices” by the FDA. Products classified as medical devices are not required to diclose the ingredients on the packaging. This is how many companies are able to get away with using ingredients that if consumers knew about, they would be much less likely to purchase.
This is something that has been largely up for debate between experts, consumers and the FDA. The FDA has said that there is not enough sufficient evidence of harm that they are willing to change their guidelines. But this is simply because there isn’t enough comprehensive testing on it to show proof!
Just because it’s not being officially reported doesn’t mean it’s not happening. This is why it’s so important we keep pushing for change and holding these companies accountable. The more that this topic is talked about and concern is expressed, the more likely that this industry is to commit to real change.
How Do These Chemicals Affect Our Bodies?
These harmful chemicals cause life altering, long-term effects on our bodies. Because the vagina is so permeable, anything that’s put in or near it can be absorbed into the mucus membrane then into our bloodstream.
Some of the most common concerns are:
- Increased risk of cancer
- Endocrine disruption
- Harm to fertility and reproductive organs
- Negatively affect birth outcomes
- Developmental harm
- Early puberty
- Allerigc reactions or skin irritation
- Increased risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)
A scientific study in 2020 found that some endocrine disruptors (EDCs), such as phthalates, are potential risk factors for bacterial vaginosis (BV). So not only is your health at risk, but you also have a heightened chance of uncomfortable and unnecessary infections! Talk about a double whammy.
Women deserve to know what they’re putting in their bodies. At the least, we absolutely deserve more information on what these chemicals do so we can make the choice for ourselves whether or not to use these products. Our health and longevity is at stake and we have no control over it.
What Can You Do To Keep Yourself Safe?
If this is all new information for you, it can be extremely overwhelming! But don’t worry, we’re going to talk about what IS safe to use.
Here are a few tips for choosing safe period products:
- Look for products with natural materials and unbleached, organic cotton.
- Opt for products that are unscented and fragrance-free.
- Make sure all ingredients are openly disclosed on the label. Transparency from the brand that makes the product is SO important.
- For tampons, it’s a bonus (and healthier for both you AND the environment) if you find ones with plastic-free applicators.
Try your best to research the brands you’re buying your products from so you know what’s in them before you use them. A lot of the products sold in stores are not the greatest, so you’ll likely find the best, safest brands online. However, times are radpily changing, so there are more safe brands now being sold in-store than ever before, so you might get lucky depending on where you shop!
It’s unfortunately going to be more expensive to buy products with safer ingredients like organic cotton and without the toxic chemicals. If you can afford it, keeping yourself safe and healthy is absolutely worth your money. If you can’t, don’t feel badly about it. It might be worth considering switching from tampons or pads to something like a menstrual cup that’s reusable, so you can save money and still keep yourself safe.
Think about how many tampons or pads you go through during your period each month. If you add up how many you’ve used in the last year, 5 years, or even throughout your entire lifetime as a menstruator… It’s a LOT. Probably more than you can even guess.
Now think about how many times the products you’ve trusted have contained chemicals that harm your body. You absolutely have a right to be angry or upset! This is why there are organizations like Womens Voices For The Earth (WVE) that actively fight for change and our access to safe, tested products.
Period products are a necessity for women, and we deserve to know what we’re putting in our bodies. If you have the means to do so, definitely invest in higher quality products to keep yourself as safe and healthy as possible.
Exposing yourself to these harmful chemicals is not worth the dangers they have on your health. Try leaving those big name brands selling products with toxic chemicals on the shelf, and opt for the brands with more naturally sourced, safer ingredients.