Thanks to sex education taught in most schools, girls reach puberty with some knowledge about menstruation. There comes a day when you start to bleed and... Ta-da! You are now a woman! At school, we have been explained the why and the how, the causes and consequences of menstruation. You complement with your friends this information and this process towards this new stage of your body. And the ads on TV or advertising in stores and supermarket shelves induce you to buy certain products to deal with monthly bleeding. It seems that we are very well informed. And since girls we use pads, tampons and panty liners fully trusting those ads that show ideal products and wonderful girls right in the menstrual period.
But how many girls and young women have received information or education about the composition of these pads and tampons? What are they made of? Are they healthy? Can they affect my health? My fertility? My vagina? Can I blindly trust these multinationals that sell me about 20,000 intimate hygiene products throughout my life?
Curiously enough, we are used to reading the ingredients when we buy food. And based on this, we choose one or another product. When we are ill, a doctor with ten years of studies behind his/her back prescribes us medicine, or we trust the judgement of a pharmacist for minor illnesses. But when we have our period, we do not ask, do not inform, we just put inside our body something unknown because current legislation does not require companies to report the composition of these products. They can carry whatever. You'll never know.
And what are these pads and tampons made of? Most women don't know the answer to this question. They assume those products are cotton made just because they look white. But they are not. The pads and tampons of the best-known brands are usually made of a mixture of pulp, plastics and synthetic fibres such as rayon and viscose. When these synthetic products contact body, they may create unfavourable conditions leading to allergy, irritation and discomfort.
If someone asked me to introduce a piece of chemically treated plastic into my vagina, seven days a week every month for years, I would say "no way". And yet I have done it, and probably you too.
By ignorance. Because no one had informed me. Because there is no education on this topic. Now I know that tampons can contain two substances potentially dangerous and harmful to health:
- The DIOXIN, a chemical used to bleach that is carcinogenic and toxic to reproductive systems. It is associated with endometriosis and immune system alterations. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dioxin levels in cotton and rayon used by the four major American tampon factories are almost 'negligible'. But there they are.
- The VISCOSA or RAYON is a highly absorbent substance that can be dangerous because when fibres from the tampons remain inside the vagina (it usually happens because most tampons have no security veil), this can create a breeding ground for DIOXIN and it may promote the development of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).
We know that cotton is the best choice for intimate hygiene products because it is breathable, hypoallergenic and compatible with the pH of women. But beware; conventionally grown cotton is one of the crops with most pesticide in commercial agriculture. Against this, it's always best to use ecological cotton, also known in some countries as organic cotton, because it has been grown without using pesticides or chemical fertilisers. That is why organic cotton has less impact on the environment. However, how I can know if a tampon or pad is made of organic cotton? It's easy: it must be indicated in the box, and for more security, certified by an international organisation. This way you will exactly know what are you introducing into your body.
Examples of certifications that ensure the ecological quality of feminine hygiene products
The great deception in the intimate feminine hygiene is having not provided this information to women so that, at least, they can choose judiciously and with full knowledge. The great deception is that something that looks like cotton, and cotton they call it, is not. The great deception is that is not MANDATORY to report what is the composition of the products they sell us, or that no regulation protects us from certain demonstrably dangerous ingredients. The great deception is that thousands of women are suffering from health and fertility problems for the benefit of multinationals that, contrary to what they preach in their ads, the less they care about is your health.