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Diapers and Menstrual Pads Laced with Toxic Chemicals

Diapers and Menstrual Pads Laced with Toxic Chemicals
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Presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in most brands is a major hazard. Action Alert!

A new report highlighted by Environmental Health News demonstrates that most diapers and menstrual pads contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and phthalates, endangering millions of babies and seniors who may be absorbing these chemicals through the genitalia. Congress and the FDA must take action to protect these populations.

The study came about as a result of an investigation and class action lawsuit in South Korea after thousands of women claimed that new sanitary pads were causing menstrual problems and irregularities. The scientists tested a handful of diaper and menstrual pad brands for the presence of VOCs and phthalates, though they don’t name the brands.

The study’s authors concluded, “The physical location of the exposure site, the high absorption rate of the genitalia for chemicals, and the long-term exposure period demand a thorough investigation on the potential impact of the exposure to VOCs and phthalates.”

All four brands of diapers and all eleven brands of menstrual pads tested positive for at least two phthalates. Two brands of menstrual pads contained VOCs, along with all four diaper brands.

The levels of these chemicals in the different brands varied drastically. There was a 6,000-fold difference in levels of VOCs, and a 130-fold difference in the levels of phthalates found in the various brands. So some brands are clearly better than others—though it’s a shame we don’t know which were the worst offenders.

Exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, visual problems, and memory problems in the short term, but long-term impacts include damage to the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system, asthma, brain impairment, and cancer.

Phthalates—common plasticizers used in toys and other products—come with a similarly long list of risks: they’ve been linked with asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, and altered reproductive development. A recent study found that children exposed to phthalates before birth and shortly after had reduced lung function at 6 and 12 years old.

Aging adults are also at risk. Sales of adult diapers are skyrocketing as the baby boomer generation ages. In Japan, more adult diapers are sold than baby diapers. Aside from the previously mentioned risks, some scientists think that Alzheimer’s is in part caused by exposure to environmental contaminants, including phthalates.

These results are shocking and outrageous. Women begin using menstrual pads at the start of puberty until menopause—almost four decades—every month. This is prolonged, chronic exposure to these dangerous chemicals at an area of the body that is particularly vulnerable to absorption. Babies wear diapers every day for the first few years of life. Senior citizens may wear adult diapers for years.

Nor are these the only feminine products that pose a risk. Tampons have been found to contain dioxin, a toxic chemical used to bleach the products white. Tampons and other feminine care products are often made from cotton, which is typically genetically engineered and soaked in pesticides, or rayon, which is made from wood pulp and then bleached. Again, the highly permeable nature of the vaginal wall means that these toxins are likely getting absorbed with each use over a prolonged period of time.

There are safer alternatives, but these products are expensive because they are made from organic cotton. Consumers should look for products that are chlorine-free and synthetic-free. There are also other products on the market that allow women to avoid tampons altogether if they so choose.

The risks posed to babies and women from these products is unacceptable. Action must be taken to protect these populations. There should be no allowable level of known toxins in diapers and feminine care products.

Action Alert! Tell Congress and the FDA to protect women and infants by disallowing the use of toxic chemicals in diapers and feminine care products. Please send your message immediately.

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