Since the advent of female hygiene products, the quality of life of women has
improved considerably. But it took a long time for everyone to identify the risks of using seemingly comfortable and most easily available ‘Synthetic Sanitary Napkins.’ We have unintentionally exposed our bodies to considerable risk by using synthetic sanitary pads, which were once considered as most pivotal in providing women independence during menstruation.
Sanitary napkins have evolved from cotton layers held together by a fibre sheet with a waterproof plastic layer at the bottom to prevent staining. As new techniques and designs came up, it transformed into ultra-thin sanitary napkins with gel core, to absorb more and provide safety against leaks. While modern women enjoy the ease that comes with the use of synthetic sanitary pads, little do they suspect the impending health threat that they are being exposed to, is affecting their reproductive health.
Commercial Sanitary Napkins Are Dangerous for You and The Environment
On an average, a woman uses 11,000 to 17,000 sanitary pads during her lifetime. Use of sanitary pads varies from region to region. According to the National Family Health Survey, in 2015-2016 the use of sanitary pads is 47% in rural India and 77% in urban India. Considering the population of the country, these proportions translate to a huge number. If every Indian woman who uses sanitary pads generates waste of disposable sanitary pads weighing 500 gm, then the total waste generated in the country is a whopping 16180 tons.
Most components of synthetic sanitary napkins are non-biodegradable and adversely affect the environment. Considering the risk to the environment and inadvertently the life on earth, more emphasis is being laid on using low carbon footprint components in the manufacturing of sanitary pads. The aim is not only to use sustainable and natural resources for the composition but also to minimise health risks without compromising on the convenience.
Sanitary Pad Concerns- Lack of Deeper Research and Regulatory Flaws
Bureau of Indian Standards, 1980 specifies very basic tests regarding only the
physical attributes of sanitary pads. There are no regulations on synthetic sanitary napkins in India that pertain to the toxicity or safety of the ingredients used in the manufacturing. In the U.S, Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of sanitary pads and has more stringent rules.
However, the risks associated with long-term sanitary pad use are not taken
seriously by lawmakers as well as the producers. Biocompatibility tests, toxicology, and microbiological tests are necessary during the preclinical phase to ensure that the product is safe for women as well as the environment.
3 Reasons That Make Synthetic Sanitary Pads So Dangerous
There is a long list of reasons as to why synthetic sanitary pads are risky. Several independent studies have been carried out to determine the extent of health damage caused by the components of synthetic sanitary napkins. Women’s Voices for the Earth is a nonprofit advocacy group in Missoula, published a report in 2013 which states that several carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and surface irritants are being used in menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads and tampons.
- The Persistent Dioxin:
Did you know that your squeaky white sanitary pad uses a dangerous
chemical called Dioxin to achieve the look of purity? The WHO labels dioxin as a pollutant and carcinogen which does not degrade in the environment easily. The effects it can have on the human body is much more serious than just superficial irritation and allergy.
Dioxin is a chemical used to bleach the cotton and cellulose wood pulp, to give it a white color. This chemical does not get eliminated from the product on which it is used and finds its way to your body and environment when you use a sanitary pad containing this cotton. Even at low doses, Dioxin finds its way into your fat tissues and continue to pose several health threats.
Dioxin is a potent carcinogen. Though the exposure to dioxin through sanitary pads is deemed insignificant by product makers, the nature of dioxin to get accumulated in your body has the potential to cause cancers like cervical cancer and ovarian cancer. The vaginal mucous membrane is extremely permeable and can absorb chemical like Dioxin directly into the bloodstream. Dioxin is also an immunosuppressant and can disrupt your hormonal regulatory mechanism. This endocrine disrupter can alter the ratio of estrogen and androgen in your body, resulting in reproductive problems.
- Increased Risks of Vaginal Infections:The plasticizers like BPA and synthetic linings of sanitary pads can result in the increased risk of exposure to bacteria and yeasts. Wetness resulting from the collection of moisture can be a breeding ground for bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and yeast like Candida albicans. These microbes multiply rapidly in a humid environment and cause vaginal infections.
If left untreated, these microbes can enter the bloodstream and cause severe septic shock. Vaginitis can progress into Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which has the potential to damage the reproductive ability of a woman. BPA and BPS are also linked with disruption of embryonic development.
- Compromised Female Reproductive Health:
A beautiful fragrance is associated with the freshness of sanitary napkins. But the price that you are paying for having an odor-free period is not worth it at all. Synthetic sanitary napkins are laced with odor neutralizers and artificial fragrances. These cheap chemical components can cause serious irritations and allergy. These chemicals can cause complications in reproduction, to the extent of infertility.Phthalates are compounds used to give a smooth finish to the sanitary pads. These compounds have been shown to cause endocrine disruption and affect normal reproductive hormone levels in experimental animals.
Super Absorbent Polymers used in sanitary pads are mostly petroleum by- products which claim to soak 30 times their weight. This quality of ultra-thin sanitary napkin makes it very desirable for women, but there is a considerable health threat that comes with this convenience. SAP can cause skin reactions, rashes, allergies, reproductive issues, and Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Apart from these help concerns, the looming environmental threat due to synthetic sanitary pads is equally serious. Burning or burying of these wastes can release the dangerous chemicals into the air, water and soil, which eventually find their way back to all living beings. This continuous cycle of pollution is affecting all life forms.
What is The Best Way Out?
Use of fully biodegradable and chemical free sanitary pads is a great way to save your body and world. These sanitary pads are made from sustainable and natural components with minimal or no chemicals. Bamboo fiber, jute fiber, corn starch and organic cotton are the main components of such products. The waterproof lining used in such sanitary pads is made of biodegradable plastic. Heyday is a new age brand that brings biodegradable and organic personal hygiene products to the Indian marketplace to keep women’s periods healthy and safe. These sanitary pads are gentle for women using them and do not cause any allergy since they are fragrance-free. These are degraded easily when disposed of, reduce
carbon footprint and release of chemical pollutants.