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Ladies, Can We Talk?

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Ladies, we could talk about organic cloth diapering and baby products all day, anywhere, couldn’t we?  We’re seeking out products for our children with safer chemicals and it seems like a no brainer that parents of all backgrounds agree on the idea.  But we need to have a talk about something many of us use regularly, often without a second thought.

We need to talk about feminine care products.  We need to talk about pads and tampons that touch our most delicate parts. There, I said it.

You’ll notice that I chose a Victorianesque floral photo to use with this article, to help soften the awkwardness of the subject. The reality is that many of us who are concerned enough about our babies to seek out delicate cloth diapers, organic first foods and toxin-free shampoos are still choosing the same old feminine care products for ourselves with little to no thought about what they contain.

A new report called Chem Fatale by Women’s Voices for the Earth or WVE is calling attention to the delicate subject of unregulated and potentially harmful chemicals in feminine care products.  “Feminine care products are not just your average cosmetics because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbant part of a woman’s body,” said WVE Science and Research Director Alexandra Scranton. “Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of their ingredients on women’s health.”

Believe me, I’d rather ignore this information too and pretend that the products I buy each month couldn’t possibly contain toxic paraban preservatives or quaternium-15 which could release cancer-causing formaldehyde.  I’ve learned from WVE that tampons and pads are regulated as “medical devices” which give makers the ability to keep all their ingredients secret from women like you and me who buy them.   Then, other feminine care hygiene products like douches and sprays fall under the heading of cosmetics, which means they get a free pass to keep ingredients in their potentially harmful synthetic fragrances a secret from us, too.

The WVE report touches on another sensitive part of this issue, that women of color may be disproportionately affected by toxins in feminine care products.  “Knowledge is power,” said Cristina Aguilar, Interim Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. “But in this case, we know that many of the most dangerous products that are found to cause chronic diseases also target women of color.  The reality is knowledge isn’t enough — Latinas who already have health disparities, also face financial, economic, and geographic barriers to accessing safe alternatives.”

Whew, we have enough to worry about trying to protect our children from toxic chemicals, especially since the US market is largely unregulated for long-term chemical safety.  We may not be able to change this issue overnight, or even in one month, but this latest science-based information is a good place to start.  You can read the entire Chem Fatale report here at the WVE website.


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