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Toxic Tampons: Dangers Hidden in Your Feminine Products

Never make assumptions about tampon safety.



Toxic Tampons: Dangers Hidden in Your Feminine Products

Some feminine products contain questionable ingredients, according to a 2013 report.

Many women use dozens of personal care products every day—shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, makeup, and hair sprays and gels. Then there are the really (personal) personal care products…things like tampons, pads, vaginal douche, and wipes.

These products get up close and personal with extremely permeable mucous membranes in the vaginal area, sensitive tissue that readily absorbs whatever is in the products women put on—or in it. This delicate area is filled with blood and lymphatic vessels, meaning chemicals absorbed "down there" go straight into your circulatory system.

A new report from Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE), a nonprofit group aimed at getting toxic compounds out of consumer products, found some unsettling news when its team looked at tampon dangers and other feminine products. WVE found unregulated and potentially toxic compounds like hormone disruptors, allergens, carcinogens, and reproductive toxins in products sold in the U.S. The main threat? Harmful preservatives, pesticides, fragrances, and dyes may have infiltrated the American feminine care industry, unbeknownst to most of the women who use them.

Toxic ingredients in personal care products is nothing new in the United States, where ingredients aren't studied for long-term health effects before being introduced to the market. Today, more than 80,000 chemicals are used in American-sold products, including ones that are banned in other countries.

"The chemicals used in these products are a real concern given the inevitable exposure to sensitive and absorptive vulvar and vaginal tissue," says Ami Zota, MD, a professor of occupational and environmental health at George Washington University. "There is a clear need for more research on the health effects of these exposures on women's health."

According to the new report, here are the potential health concerns associated from feminine personal care products. The WVE Feminine Product Hall of Shame picks are meant to serve of examples of potentially harmful ingredients in feminine products…

Tampons
Tampons and pads are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies are not required to disclose the products' ingredients. Up to 85 percent of menstruating women use tampons, so a huge part of the population could face dangerous exposures.

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Dioxins and furans (from the chlorine bleaching process), pesticide residues, and unknown fragrance chemicals.

Exposure Concerns: Cancer, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and allergic rash

What You Can Do: Avoid scented products, choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton options, and look for brands that disclose all ingredients. You can also switch to a reusable silicone or natural rubber menstrual cup, like the Diva Cup or the Keeper.

Pads
Up to 75 percent of women report using pads or panty liners, products that sometimes harbor irritating fragrances that you won't find on the label.

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Dioxins and furans, pesticide residues, unknown fragrance chemicals, and adhesive chemicals such as methyldibromo glutaronitrile

Exposure Concerns: Cancer, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and allergic rash

What You Can Do: Avoid scented products, choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton options, and consider trying reusable, washable menstrual pads, like these (super soft) ones from Charlie Banana, or these from Lunapads. If you're experiencing vaginal irritation during pad use, try switching to another brand—and then tell the makers of your old product why you stopped using it!

Feminine Wipes
The American Contact Dermititis Society named the preservatives methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) "Allergens of the Year" in 2013. And guess what? They often hide out in baby and feminine wipes.

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, and unknown fragrance chemicals.

Exposure Concerns: Cancer, endocrine disruption, allergic rash

What You Can Do: Consider cutting out the use of feminine wipes. Women survived for thousands of years without them!

Hall of Shame Products:
• Walgreens Feminine Wipes
• Vagisil Anti-Itch Medicated Wipes
• Kirkland Signature Moist Flushable Wipes

Feminine Wash
Many feminine washes contain toxic preservatives like parabens, suspected chemicals that mess with your hormones. (They also have ties to breast cancer.) Also watch out for quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin on the ingredients list—these compounds release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin, D&C Red #33, Ext. D&C Violet #2, and FD&C Yellow #5

Exposure Concerns: Hormone disruption, allergic rash, and asthma

Hall of Shame Products:
• CVS Feminine Wash Sensitive Skin
• Equate Feminine Wash
• Intimore Fresh Sensitive Liquid Soap
• Lemisol Plus feminine wash
• Summer's Eve Feminine Wash
• Vagisil Feminine Wash

What You Can Do: Most commonly used by Latina women, many experts suggests cutting out these products in light of health concerns. Just because ingredients are in products on store shelves doesn't mean they are necessarily safe.

Douche
The leaders of one of the most well-established medical groups in the country, the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), specifically recommend against intravaginal cleaning, aka douching, because it increases a woman's risk of developing vaginal bacterial infections.

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Unknown fragrance chemicals and the spermicide octoxynol-9

Exposure Concerns: Bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, low birth-weight babies, preterm birth, HIV transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, chronic yeast infections, and infertility

Hall of Shame Products:
• CVS Disposable Douche–Summer Breeze
• Massengill Disposable Douche with Extra Cleansing Vinegar and Water
• Summer's Eve Douche–Island Splash

What You Can Do: Avoid douching. It interferes with your vagina's natural ability to clean itself because it disrupts pH levels and healthy bacterial levels.

Feminine Deodorant
More commonly used by black women than white women, the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians recommends that no women use these products to prevent or clear up vulvar disorders.

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, and benzethonium chloride

Exposure Concerns: Reproductive harm, hormone disruption, and allergic rash

Hall of Shame Products:
• Norforms Feminine Deodorant Suppositories–Tropical Splash
• Summer's Eve Body Powder–Cotton Breeze
• Vagisil Talc-Free Deodorant Powder

What You Can Do: Listen to the docs. Medical professionals advise against using these products.

Feminine Anti-Itch Creams
How's this for irony? Many feminine anti-itch products are laced with fragrance allergens, chemicals that can actually exacerbate the itchy symptoms a woman is trying to treat by using the product!

Possible Hazardous Ingredients: Unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, methylisothiazolinone and an active ingredient, benzocaine, a mild anesthetic.

Exposure Concerns: Hormone disruption, allergic rash, and unresolved itch

Hall of Shame Products:
• Vagisil Anti-Itch Creme, Maximum Strength
• vH Essentials Advanced Medicated Cream

What You Can Do: If you're experiencing vaginal itching, start cutting out scented feminine products to see if it helps. Talk to your doctors about your symptoms, and ask if certain products could be triggering them.

To get toxic ingredients out of many common feminine hygiene products, Women's Voices for the Earth suggests you:

• Tell the FDA if you have had any concerns about or reactions to a feminine care product—call 800-332-1088 or fill out a consumer reporting form
Sign this petition.

Filed Under: WOMEN'S HEALTH

Published on: November 7, 2013



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