When it comes to assaults on our health, women have a special place in our society.
We have products specially made for us, or pushed on us that are not at all conducive to good health. Here are some examples (and perhaps ones that I will write on more in depth in a future article):
- Hormonal birth control
- High heels
- Vaginal “cleansers,”
- Unrealistic body images
Do you get the picture? I know some of them sound a little crazy, and probably make you think I am a wacko, but rest assured, I still (occasionally) wear bras. What I want to talk about a little more today is menstrual products.
“What?!” You may be asking. Yes, the way in which we deal with our periods can be a big burden on our health.
Culturally, the teaching is that fresh scents, disposing of something after a single use, and a bleached white look are the epitome of clean, fresh, and safe. You may think a lot about what goes into your mouth, but disregard what is coming into contact with your skin (which, of course, absorbs a lot! Take for example hormone or sea sickness patches). Not only are these tampons and pads coming into contact with your skin, but they are coming into contact with a mucous membrane. Yikes!
Why might these symbols of cleanliness be a health hazard?
- They don’t have to disclose their ingredients, due to being “medical devices.” Couple that with the fact that you “need” them every month and you have happy manufacturers who don’t want or need to prove anything.
- Rayon. This may sound innocuous enough, but it needs high amounts of bleaching and is what is implicated in toxic shock syndrome. The bleaching, since 1998, is now done with a technically chlorine-free process, but still releases a high amount of dioxins as a by-product and retains some in the product as well. Dioxins are associated with abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs, abnormal cell growth in the body in general (cancer, anyone?), are an endocrine disruptor, and can suppress the immune system.
- Pesticides. Cotton is one of the most heavily-sprayed crops, and you know your menstrual product manufacturers aren’t buying organic!
- Petrochemicals. Both the plastics in pads and applicators on tampons contain these in large amounts. In addition, these plastics can restrict all important air flow. We are encouraged to wear cotton underwear, but overlook the chunk of the month that we may be wearing a plastic pad or panty liner (which many women are even encouraged to use when not on their period!).
These are some examples of the ways in which these products can undermine your health. There is certainly more, but there is no reason to bore you. It’s actually pretty hard to find info on the health risks, though. If you do a google search for “health issues feminine hygiene” you will find a couple links to people’s research on the health issues of conventional period protection, but many more on why it’s so important for women to have feminine hygiene products, and our push to get them to the third world countries.
If you want to watch a video lighting two different pads on fire, this may be all the demonstration you need…
(Ok, maybe I just like fire.. What?)
So, what are the alternatives? It’s really good to realize that we have real options, and a lot of women find themselves a lot happier when they make the switch.
Check out this video I made covering some of the alternatives:
So, what kind of period products do you like to use? If it’s anything alternative, when did you make the switch and how did you hear about them? Let me know in the comments!