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Opinion: 5 reasons we should think twice about the ingredients in our feminine products

Periods. Yeah I know, they suck. It’s that wonderful time once a month that our bodies decide to overwhelm us with cramps, cravings, and a whole lot of PMSing. Taking care of ourselves on our periods is something that we know we should do, but we don’t always take the time and effort to do it. Maybe self-care means destressing during a chilled out yoga class, or maybe it means something completely different to you. Either way, one method of self-care during our periods that we often neglect is treating our bodies with the best, most natural ingredients of tampons and pads. If you’re like most women, you’re probably not so much concerned about the brand or style of pad or tampon you’re purchasing, instead more focused on the price and the strength of the feminine product. Here are five reasons why we might want to care more about what’s in our feminine products:

1 – The Ingredients In Pads and Tampons are Minimally Regulated

The FDA deems feminine hygiene products “medical devices.” Because of this label, tampon and pad companies are not required to disclose information about the ingredients in their products. It’s the principle of the FDA glossing over these sorts of considerations that’s worrying. Just because these products seem relatively safe doesn’t mean that the buildup of chemical exposure isn’t a contributor to other health problems down the line. The good news is that we are making progress. As of 2008, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York introduced legislation to require studies of tampon safety. The latest version of the bill known as the Menstrual Products Right to Know, introduced by Grace Meng in 2017, which if passed, requires ingredients to be listed.

2 – There’s Little Research On The Long-term Effects Of Chemicals Found In These Products

Nobody is completely certain what the long-term effects of the chemicals in pads and tampons have on our bodies as a whole. Dr. Debra Wickman, OB-GYN at Ohio State University, doesn’t think that the chemicals are necessarily something to worry too much about. She told Teen Vogue that our obsession with the negative effect of the chemicals in tampons is “one of those theoretical things, because we have so much exposure to phthalates and dioxins and toxins in our food supply, in our environment, in our household products. It’s hard to know how much the tampons are contributing”.

If only there were such thing as low key chemicals. In reality, the stakes are pretty high if we’re wrong. Philip Tierno, NYU professor of microbiology, told Time Magazine that the buildup of overall toxins in our bodies can have a “cumulative effect”. Needless to say, the jury is not out on the issue of chemicals leaching into our bodies. I say we deserve to have better odds.

3 – Endocrine Disruptors Are No Joke

It seems like cancer is something that we can’t escape. The chlorine in the bleaching process of non-organic cotton and the plastic applicator contains a group of chemicals, sometimes referred to as “endocrine disruptors”. These chemicals have been linked to brain disorders, reproductive issues, obesity, and (you guessed it) cancer.

4 – The Environmental Impact of Feminine Products Is Huge

According to research from scholar Ann Borowski, about 20 billion tampons and pads end up in North American landfills each year. The average woman uses over 11,000 tampons over her lifetime, leaving behind residue far beyond her lifespan. And here’s the cherry on top, it can take centuries for that stuff to biodegrade.

5- There Are So Many Alternatives

If you’d rather take it slow, check out organic feminine hygiene products that happily disclose information about the ingredients of their products (like this brand). But if you really want to protect yourself and Mother Nature, utilize the menstrual cup or underwear made for periods. I’m obsessed with my THINX organic underwear and can’t stop raving about it to my friends. Not only am I making my body and the environment happy, but also my wallet. That’s right, I’ve steered clear from my monthly trip to CVS to pick up tampons and overnight pads because THINX has got me covered. Whatever you choose to do moving forward, if you have thought about giving one of these alternative options a try, I highly encourage it.

(Jordan Winters / Neon)

Categories: Opinion.

Top image: (Jordan Winters / Neon)

Natalie Raphael
Natalie Raphael has been writing for USC Annenberg Media since she was a freshman. Along with that, she dabbles in writing music reviews for a few small indie music blogs as well. In her free time, she enjoys doing yoga, meditating, and making burrito bowls.