Toxic Chemicals Lurking in Feminine Care Products

    [fa icon="user"] Julia Condon [fa icon="folder-open'] Body Care, Girl Talk, Feminine Care

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    Let’s face it: women’s health issues and discussions of feminine care products are still considered taboo!  As much progress as women have made throughout history, we still lower our voices when discussing the happenings of our vaginas in public and inconveniently lug our entire purses to the bathroom when we’re in public places and need to put in a tampon because the thought of carrying such a thing by itself is embarrassing.  

    (The editors will probably even use some symbolic picture instead of anatomy, and fill the subject line with non-office-offensive wording.)  

    We’re self-conscious, constantly aware of how our vaginas smell and feel and will buy products that promise to help us to feel and smell “cleaner,” despite a lack of evidence backing up such claims.

    The truth of the matter . . . 

    Nearly fifty percent of the world’s population bleeds from their vaginas on a monthly basis. (Give or take younger and older demographics.) Of this fifty percent, many of us purchase feminine care products regularly, if we are lucky enough to have such an option. As women, there is much to worry about in our lives, we shouldn’t have to worry about our feminine care products harboring dozens of toxic chemicals that could harm us.

    But we do have to worry. Did you know that your tampon could be host to pesticide residues?Or that feminine wipes likely have parabens in them which are known to causeendocrine disruption, cancer and developmental and reproductive issues? Would you still use these products if they were stamped with labels WARNING you in ominous black and yellow print that your feminine care products could give you rashes, cancer, and cause endocrine disruption and reproductive issues? 


    What’s more disturbing?

    Companies selling these products know exactly what they’re doing. They take advantage of our insecurities through decisive marketing, channeling the voice inside of us that worries that our vaginas are “dirty.” They sell us tampons scented with unnecessary fragrances and wipes that actually increase our chances of infection instead of curbing such issues.

    Commonly used feminine-care product can contain a toxic concoction of chemicals. Below is a high level summary of some of the popular feminine care products, the chemicals of concern they may contain and what these chemicals do, and what alternatives we have to using them.  For a seriously deep dive, go straight to our big sister, Women's Voices for the Earth.  


    • What kind of nasty things can I find here?  Dioxins, pesticide residues, unknown fragrance chemicals. 
    • What are my alternatives?  Search for tampons that are organic and chlorine free are a good start.  Have you explored mentrual cups? Just mention this outloud and you may be surprised how common this option has become.


    • What kind of nasty things can I find here? Same as above, and throw in adhesive chemicals, sometimes related to allergic rashes. 
    • What are my alternatives? Just in case you skipped over numero uno, use a mentstrual cup.  Seriously. It’s amazing. Or, there are products that are plastic free and compostable (who knew?!)  Many women swear by the convienance and reusablity of organic washable menstural pads. 

    Feminine wipes:

    • What kind of nasty things can I find here?
      Wipes may include methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, Triclosan and unknown fragrance chemicals.   OR.....
    • What are my alternatives? The vagina cleans itself. Seriously. All you really need to wash down there is water. If you really feel the need to clean your lady parts, natural, unscented soap will do the trick. Be wary of scented soaps that may contain fragrances and harsh chemicals. Trust your instincts and listen to your body – if you think your vagina smells strange, you might have an infection that needs a gynecologist’s attention.

    Even better described with this video break:  


    The point is . . .

    We shouldn’t need a chemistry degree to make informed decisions about the products we’re choosing. The potentially harmful chemicals poisoning our products simply should not be in them in the first place. The first step to solving these issues is talking about them loudly and to people who have the authority to change the dangerous standard. We need to raise our voices above a whisper when discussing feminine care products and demand a change.   Or as Women’s Voices for the Earth puts it "Toxic chemicals don't belong in feminine care products. Period."

    Now that you are informed, it’s time to act and catalyze a change for all women.

    Special thanks to Women’s Voices for the Earth for providing the information and research used to create this article. 


    Fun Fact:  

    The Savvy Women's Alliance of Providence selected this monthly theme as their very first Gathering topic to address, explore and share ideas with each other! Bring it on Savvy women!   Bravo!  

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    Julia Condon

    Written by Julia Condon

    Julia is a Bostonite through and through who enjoys yoga, cooking vegetarian meals, and being outside (yes, even in the freezing New England winters). She spends most of her time at the keyboard whether she's blogging for Savvy or drafting then deleting the next Great American Novel in a never ending cycle.

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