November 6th, 2013

Toxic Tampons? Report Exposes Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Feminine Care Products

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Toxic Chemicals Found in Certain Brands of Tampons, Pads and Other Feminine Care Products

Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) just released a new report which found toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and allergic reactions in certain brands of tampons, pads, douches, wipes, and sprays.

Not good news since these products come in contact with some of the most absorptive tissue on women’s bodies and many of us use them for a few days every month!

“Feminine care products are not just your average cosmetics, because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbent part of a woman’s body,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s director of science and research and author of the report. “Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of these ingredients for women’s health.”

Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products are Unregulated

The FDA does not require feminine-care product manufacturers  to tell you what’s in their products.

The report, Chem Fatale: Potential Health Effects of Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products,  examines unregulated toxic chemicals in feminine care products that may result in serious health problems, like increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive problems, asthma, and allergic reactions. Chemicals of concern commonly used in feminine care products include cancer-causing chemicals, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, and allergens.

Some shocking highlights of the report:

  • While pads and tampons are used almost universally by all women, Black and Latina women use some feminine products like douches, wipes, and sprays in greater numbers than white women, meaning these women of disproportionately impacted by the toxic chemicals in these products.
  • Pads and tampons are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies don’t have to disclose any ingredients in these products.
  • Other feminine care products are regulated as personal care products, which means that companies are legally allowed to keep fragrance ingredients a secret from consumers—even the toxic ones.
  • Test results show dioxins, furans, and pesticide residues in tampons, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.
  • Lots of feminine care products contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a potent allergen.
  • The FDA considers common chemicals in feminine washes to be safe “for external use only.”  However, it is extremely likely that some internal vaginal exposure will occur from regular use.
  • Anti-itch creams commonly contain chemicals that are either allergens or irritants, and can actually exacerbate the very symptoms that women are attempting to treat.
  • Because of weak regulation companies do not have to prove the chemicals they are using in these products are safe. That means companies are legally allowed to use ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects, and other chronic diseases
  • Check out this video demonstration from our friends at Naturally Savvy showing how when an Always Infinity pad is set on fire it burns rapidly potentially indicating petrochemicals, plastics, and other chemicals, while a Natracare pad hardly burns.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in Tampons and Other Feminine Care Products

  • Avoid Hall of Shame products.
  • Read the labels to avoid chemicals of concern.
  • Look for brands that disclose all ingredients, including what’s in fragrance.
  • Reduce your use of feminine care products. Try using a menstrual cup.
  • Eliminate use of products that may be unnecessary.
  • Choose unscented products where available (particularly tampons and pads).
  • Choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton tampons and pads. Choose organic when possible.
  • If you are having allergic symptoms, switch brands! When you do switch – call the company’s 1-800 customer service to tell them why!).
  • Tell the FDA if you’ve had symptoms that may be from a feminine care product. Call 1-800-332-1088  or fill out a consumer reporting form available HERE.

Take Action: Ask Procter & Gamble to Disclose Ingredients

We have a right to know what’s in the products we use in and on our bodies. Feminine care products aren’t things we like to discuss on a regular basis, but we need to talk about this so they get the attention and scrutiny they deserve to assure their safety for women’s health.

Toxic chemicals have no place in feminine care products. Period. And it’s time to do something about it.

Join me in asking Procter & Gamble, makers of Tampax tampons and Always pads, to disclose the ingredients in those products and remove toxic chemicals linked to women’s health problems by signing HERE.

Are you surprised that toxic chemicals were found in some brands of tampons and pads?


photo credit: ma neeks via photopin cc

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20 Responses to “Toxic Tampons? Report Exposes Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Feminine Care Products”

  1. Really good information here Lori. This is a shame and not too surprising. Our most sensitive parts being exposed to toxic chemicals — no thanks! I look forward to reading the full WVE report.
    Lindsay recently posted..Strength training benefits for womenMy Profile

  2. This is terrible! Thanks for spreading the word. Are there any recalls coming up soon?!?

  3. You are so correct in stating that toxic chemicals have no place in feminine care products. This is yet another outrage! I signed the petition and plan to research this further and spread the word.
    Deborah Davis recently posted..FREE Giveaway: Enter to WIN a Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Programmable Slow CookerMy Profile


  5. Not a silly assumption Barbara. Unfortunately it’s not true. Our laws are a bit backward and broken!That’s why we need toxic chemical reform-so this is’t a silly assumption, but rather the norm. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Thanks for signing Deborah! Consumer pressure will hopefully have a positive impact on this. Change is needed now.

  7. None that I know of James.

  8. Thanks so much Lindsay. Really awful that there are so many toxins in something that’s used IN our bodies. This needs to change.

  9. It is so frustrating that we have to check and double check every product we use. An outdated Safe Chemicals Act paired with companies who know how to sit on the edge of the law make it very hard for us to raise a healthy family. A couple years ago I tried the soft cup and didn’t have very good luck with it. Maybe its time to re visit this in light of the information you have presented.
    Lisa recently posted..Rescue Dog Helps Monitor Young Owner during SurgeryMy Profile

  10. You forgot to mention reusable cloth pads! :)

  11. Wow, I knew it was bad, but not this bad! So glad I switched to a more sustainable and completely non-toxic option after I had kids (wish it was earlier). I like my Moonkeeper Cup, thank you :)
    Anastasia @ eco-babyz recently posted..Tooth Remineralizing Gelatin DessertMy Profile

  12. So many women have put their trust in these products. This issue is addressed and corrected immediately.

  13. I’m so glad I don’t use those things anymore. I stopped about 10 years ago when I became allergic to them and I found cloth sanpro, Natracare and the mooncup. I’ve got a little girl and she definitely won’t be using those horrible products. As for cleaning products. Plain water is the best!

  14. atop using toxic chemicals!

  15. P & G again? surprise, surprise! a vile animal testing company, I avoid all their products like the plague

  16. While we wait for companies to change their ways or governemnts to set stricter rules… Well don’t wait on them, make the switch for yourself today ! Cloth pads and menstrual cups can really make you period a much nicer, comfortable, and chemical-free experience ! Not to mention, they are reusable, so after the initial investment you’ll NEVER run out! There’s a ton of information to be found online about them, here are a few links to get you started :

  17. […] in products made for that area. A recent report even said that chemicals in feminine care products can increase the risk of breast cancer, reproductive problems, asthma and allergic reactions with cancer-causing chemicals and hormone […]

  18. […] It’s enough. I don’t know about you, but  I’m getting tired of hearing that there are cancer causing chemicals in products that go in and/or on our bodies. […]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori


Lori on ABC World News

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