A recent study titled ‘Wrapped in Secrecy: Toxic Chemicals in Menstrual Products‘, released by environmental NGO ‘Toxics Link’ has published shocking results claiming the presence of toxic chemicals like phthalates and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in organic and inorganic sanitary pads that are sold in the Indian market.
While there are governmental and non-governmental campaigns about menstrual hygiene and social awareness movements leading to overcoming taboos related to sanitary pads, the new findings are worrisome. Menstruating women wear sanitary pads throughout their cycle to contain the flow of blood.
The new study is one among several that highlight the risks associated with menstrual hygiene products. Being single-use products, they harm the body as well as the environment.
The study detected harmful chemicals in most of the major brands of sanitary pads available in India. The chemicals can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. They can be endocrine disruptors also
The more serious revelation according to the study report o sanitary pads was the emergence of new information on contaminants that can also cause cancer
The study was conducted this year. It tested 10 brands of pads. It found traces of phthalates and VOCs in all the samples. Twelve different types of phthalates (DIBP, DBP, DINP, DIDP, DMP, DEP, BBP, DNOP, DEHP, DHP, DIPP, and DPP) were found. The highest concentration of phthalates detected in the test sanitary pads was 19460 µg/kg of DIDP in one of the tested organic pads.
This is harmful because phthalates are linked to endocrine disruption, effects on the heart and reproductive systems, diabetes, some cancers, and congenital disabilities. The chemicals are added to make the pad more elastic.
The contaminants can change the hormonal functioning of the body. As the phthalates leak out and the vaginal tissues have a higher permeability. These chemicals, therefore, are absorbed into the body at a higher rate.
VOCs are used in the pads for fragrance purposes that can cause allergic reactions. Disposed pads are added to the soil and ultimately become a part of the food chain, which can also cause harm to health.
Some experts suggest that cloth napkins and menstrual cups are using safer alternatives that are good for the environment.