Sanitary Pads / Sanitary Napkins – A silent health threat
Did you know that most sanitary pads (and tampons) are made or bleached with chlorine compounds that contain traces of the organochlorine – dioxin?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named dioxin the most potent carcinogen known to science.
A 1996 EPA study linked dioxin exposure with increased risks for endometriosis (an infection of the uterine lining).
The EPA has also concluded that people with high exposure to dioxins may be risk for other effects that could suppress the immune system, increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, reduce fertility, and possibly interfere with normal fetal and childhood development.
In overseas test, sanitary pads have been found to contain 400 parts per trillion (ppt) dioxin.
Although the paper industry has maintained that such levels are too low to cause any health problems, studies have shown that dioxin appears to migrate easily out of paper products.
Fish and other wildlife have died after exposure to the incredibly small dose of 38 parts per quadrillion dioxin.
The average women use approximately 15,000 pads over the course of her lifetime. The effect of continual exposure to dioxin, which is forever stored in fat cells, may become cumulative and deadly.
Manufactured with Lots of Chemicals
To make a sanitary pad, wood pulp fibers are first dispersed in water in large tub. Most of the chemical s and dyes required are added at this stage (The pulp is then scraped and brushed and inserted with air to make fleecy.
Some pads contain added rayon, which also originates from wood, for extra absorbency. The cellulose in the wood is dissolved in a caustic solution, and squirted into fine jets in an acid bath (The mixture then solidifies and dries into longer fibers).
Chemical processes included de-linking recycled material, washing with detergents and bleaching. (As a result, some traces of chemical used remain in the pad).
Additives are also used to enhance the properties of the pad. These include absorbency agents and wet-strength agent – often, polysorbate and area formaldehyde.
Further bleching, involving chorine, may take place to achieve that growing white look.
What You Can See
That’s the part you can’t see. But even the external parts on a sanitary pad that you can see are all not natural.
The plastic bottom – to prevent leakage – will usually be made of polypropylene or rayon.
The non-woven fabric covering on the pad is a lightweight material which is often polypropylene or rayon.
The back has 1 or 2 strips of pressure-sensitive adhesive covered with a strip of siliconised compound paper. (The pads are then packaged in plastic bags or shrinkwrapped. And the packet itself may be printed with patterns – again, a chemical process.)
Full of Bacteria
Sanitary pass can also harbor bacterial as they are not sterilized products. In 1987, CAP’s test of some popular brands sold here (Penang, Malaysia) found unacceptably high bacterial counts of up to 11,000 (over 10 times the international safety standard). This could lead to vaginal infection in women using the pads.
Sanitary products, like pads, can also be placed on the market without prior evidence of safety or efficacy, even in developed countries.
In Canada for example, tongue depressors, bandages and dental floss are all considered medical devices, but not women menstrual pads! Women are an all too easy target because they are bound by biology to menstruate for at least 35 years. Women are thus a captive market – and potentially easy victims of numerous types of sanitary pad (and tampon) trauma.
It is thus important that women know the facts so that they can seek safer alternatives – liking using cloth, which is not only safer, but can also be reused many times. (in fact, women have safely relied on home-made menstrual products, using any available absorbent material, for most of history.)