“I can vividly remember the ‘periods talk’ at school when I was about 11, I was so terrified by the possibility of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) that I have never, ever used tampons” (A.C. age 35)
Most women will have at least a vague awareness of the risk of TSS but it is becoming clear that it is not the only toxic potential of how women deal with menstruation in the modern world.
According to a paper by the Womens Environmental Network women buy more than 3 billion items of ‘menstrual lingerie’ every year, this includes pads, tampons and increasingly feminine hygiene wipes. The worry is that in our desire to feel clean during our period we are actually doing ourselves harm.
So whats the problem?
Its all to do with what these products are made from, many women assume that its just wads of simple cotton, but unfortunately not. The majority of pads are made from wood pulp that is then bleached. Tampons are made from a mix of cotton and rayon. Increasingly pads have plastic cover layers on them and many are also fragranced. More and more women are finding that they are having irritation and allergic reactions to these products.
More worryingly the fragrances can contain phthalates, a chemical that has been shown to have a disruptive effect on hormones and may affect fertility. Likewise hygiene wipes and vaginal washes contain parabens which when absorbed through the skin can mimic oestrogen and has links to breast cancer.
And do you know, there is absolutely no requirement for this information to be put on the packets of these products!
Not only are these products toxic to you, but they aren’t doing the environment any good either. From the waste products of the manufacturing process, most notably the production of dioxins (this is a huge topic, to much to write about here so follow this link for more info), through to the fact that a lot like nappies they do not biodegrade well. In the UK over 200,000 tonnes of waste is produced every year made up of pads, tampons and applicators, and worryingly a large amount of this waste is flushed down the loo and is turning up on our beaches.
So whats the alternative?
There are so many choices in re-usable menstrual products, there is something to suit everyone, whether you are a lifelong tampon user or you prefer pads.
Washable Pads – the options with these is huge! From skinny-thin-panty-liner style, right through to comfy-get-you-through-the-night. Cotton ones or fluffy woolen ones. Not only that but they are pretty too! The ones made at Moon Times are organic and handmade right here in the UK.
Menstrual Sponges – used just like a tampon, a natural sea sponge that you insert into the vagina, simply remove, rinse and re-insert throughout the day. You can do all the things you would do if you used an ordinary tampon and what is more you can use them safely during sex as well. See our blog post about their use as a contraceptive option.
Menstrual Cups – also a bit like a tampon, simply remove and empty, rinse and re-insert. Quick and easy and minimal fuss. There are four different ones available through Moon Times so there should be one to suit every woman.
It may not seem as convenient, it may seem a little more messy, but re-usable menstrual products are better for you and better for our environment. The majority of women who have made a switch report that they have reduced menstrual pain or even none at all and many find they have little or no PMS either. Whats not to like about that!
© 2014 Awen Clement, All Rights Reserved