Menstruation is an inevitable part of life as a woman. So, talking about the safety of the menstrual hygiene products is very important and paramount. With new studies about the health impact of sanitary pads, a lot of questions about women’s hygiene products arise.
According to a recent study by an NGO, most of the sanitary pads available in the market have toxic chemicals that can cause diseases like infertility and cancer. Based on the small-scale testing, the NGO found the presence of phthalates and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in ten out of the ten samples they tested. There have been many similar studies earlier that found the presence of other chemical substances like phthalates used in making pads to increase their elasticity, absorption, and durability. Phthalates can leak out as they are not bound to the product they are added to. These chemicals, therefore, can get absorbed into the body at a higher rate because vaginal tissues have a higher permeability.
Similarly, VOCs, are harmful chemical substances that are used in the making of paints, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, and insect repellents. Exposure to VOCs may cause a variety of health effects and are suspected or proven carcinogens (cancer-causing).
Cancers in women & sanitary pads
Over the years, there is an increase in cancers found in women like ovarian, cervical, endometrial, and vaginal cancers. While few recent studies indicate the presence of harmful chemicals in the sanitary pads, there is no definite scientific research yet, that supports linking the disease solely to the usage of sanitary pads. In fact, these cancers can have many causes.
For example, vaginal, vulval and cervical cancers happens largely because of the HPV virus. The chances of this cancer are increased, when the person is over 60 years of age. So, it might be premature to say that genital cancers, endometriosis and infertility could be happening only because of chemicals in that pads and tampons.
The study published is a good start for discussion, and more research is yet to be done on this subject. More studies, and government focus on creating standards for chemicals in sanitary products are needed to come to an accurate conclusion on this topic.
Switching to greener menstruation
It’s time to shift to ecologically conscious green menstrual products, because of their impact on the environment. Only one-third of women use other alternatives like a menstrual cup, reusable cloth pads, or tampons. Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone and are completely safe to use. It is soft, reusable, and needs to be placed inside the vagina. The cup should be emptied thoroughly, washed properly, and dried fully before use. Women should change the cup once a day; otherwise, it can cause infections.
While the availability of these products points to a hopeful future where more women can adopt sustainable period practices, what continues to stand in the way of such progress is the lack of awareness around the existence of these products and the hesitancy around using insertable period care.
Few precautions for menstruating women
1. Maintaining good hand hygiene before and after using pads or other hygiene products
2. Changing pads every three to four hours and a menstrual cup once a day is important
3. Avoiding scented and overly chemically treated pads
4. Only use gentle and organic products to clean the genital area, and not overcleaning it.