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Report: Feminine Care Products Awash in Harmful Chemicals

Hazards of exposure to these common products include reproductive harm, cancer and endocrine disruption.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A new report details the hazardous chemicals lurking in products like tampons. (Photo: Aaron Fulkerson/cc/flickr)

Common feminine care products used by millions of women are laced with hazardous chemicals including carcinogens, toxins and endocrine disruptors, a new report reveals.

Entitled Chem Fatale, the report released Wednesday from Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE), an organization advocating "a toxic-free future for all," highlights how current regulations covering the $3 billion industry are putting public health in jeopardy, and provides increasing evidence of the ubiquity of toxins in our everyday lives.

“The chemicals used in these products are a real concern given the inevitable exposure to sensitive and absorptive vulvar and vaginal tissue,” stated Dr. Ami Zota, a professor of occupational and environmental health at George Washington University, in a media release.

Among the products the report scrutinized are tampons and menstrual pads—products the report says are used by 70-85 percent of women.

Using them exposes women to pesticide residues, dioxins and furans, unknown fragrance chemicals and allergens. Potential hazards of exposure to them include reproductive harm, cancer and endocrine disruption.

According to the report,

Tampons and pads are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as medical devices. Unlike cosmetics, medical devices lack any government requirement to disclose ingredients to the consumer. This makes it nearly impossible for consumers to avoid chemicals of concern found in these products.

Other feminine care products the report highlights are washes, douches, sprays and wipes, and, while they are used by a smaller percentage of women overall, the report found that they were used in considerably higher percentages by Latinas and Black women, increasing these women's exposure to toxins like formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and parabens.

"We know that many of the most dangerous products that are found to cause chronic diseases also target women of color. The reality is knowledge isn’t enough—Latinas who already have health disparities, also face financial, economic, and geographic barriers to accessing safe alternatives,” said Cristina Aguilar, Interim Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights.

“This report highlights how much more we need to know about the potential impact of feminine care product use on black women’s health,” added Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, Director of Environmental Health for WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Accompanying the report is a Hall of Shame which lists some common brand name feminine products and the chemicals of concern they contain.

WVE calls for companies to use greater transparency in the ingredients used in these products and eliminate toxic chemicals from them.


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