This One’s For The Girls: Why Your Vagina Deserves Organic
Those that follow me on a regular basis (thank-you❤) know by now that my definition of health encompasses far more than eating well and being active. I view true health as systemic: mind, body and soul. I blog about mental health and community involvement as much as I do about recipes and fitness, because it ALL matters. Health encompasses everything that makes you who you are.
An area that I feel often doesn’t get the attention it deserves in terms of health care is ironically the largest organ, our skin. Human skin is both thin and permeable, meaning that anything you are in constant contact with will eventually enter your bloodstream and be distributed throughout your body. The vagina has extremely porous membranes making it particularly efficient in terms of absorption capability.
And that brings me to this post about feminine hygiene products and why your vagina deserves the best (I laughed to myself as I wrote that btw). All joking aside though, this is a very real issue and one you want to at least hear me out on and give some thought to. Like getting your period isn’t awful enough, the hygiene products we use on a monthly basis are a huge cause for concern in terms of their ill effects on women’s health and something I believe you should start to include on your organic shopping list.
First of all. The main ingredient in tampons is cotton and cotton just so happens to be one of the most mass produced industrialized crops there is, alongside soy and corn. These three crops are also amongst the most genetically modified (GMO) and subsequently guess what else cotton, soy and corn share? They are also the most chemically contaminated crops in the world. This is because GMO crops are specifically designed to withstand stronger and higher quantities of pesticides.
~ Approximately 84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of conventional cotton grown each year in the USA ~s. Seven of the 15 pesticides commonly used on cotton in the United States are listed as “possible,” “likely,” or “known” human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency. And cotton defoliants are “the most toxic farm chemicals currently on the market,” says Fawn Pattison, executive director of the Agricultural Resources Center, a nonprofit organization ~ National Wildife Federation, 2006
Now of course there are a million sources that will say cotton, soy and corn pesticides are safe and that despite these chemicals being some of the most toxic used in agriculture, are only “probable” human carcinogens.
Now I could write a novel on the effects of pesticides on mankind but I think most of us have the common sense and awareness that regardless of them being deemed “safe” by national regulations, they are in fact not beneficial to our health and that there are actually some pretty serious implications to ingesting them.
This is a good read HERE if you want to learn more information specific to pesticides.
Personally I am of the thinking process that if I wouldn’t want to eat it I also don’t want to insert it into my vagina on a regular basis as well?. Rule of thumb. If you don’t want to breathe it, eat it or rub it on your skin you probably don’t want to have it inside of you either.
On top of this nearly all major feminine hygiene product manufactures use a chlorine bleaching process in production (because apparently us ladies care about our tampons looking “white, clean and fresh” Really?!). The problem here is that bleaching produces something called Dioxins. Dioxins contain a vast range of different chemicals all of which are known to cause: endocrine and hormone disruptions, cancer, immunity damage, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Back in 1998 the bleaching process used was particularly harmful and was banned in favour of the current chlorine-free bleaching process being used. Though this is an improvement it still produces dioxins. Federal regulations cite studies stating that dioxins levels found in present day tampons are “trace amounts” and fall within “acceptable” standards.
While this may be true dioxins bioaccumulate, meaning they are not excreted easily (it can takes decades) but rather continue to accumulate in your body. Given that the average woman will use approximately 15,000 tampons in her lifetime, I’m going to say that those trace amounts are going to add up to an unacceptable amount of dioxins pretty quick.
A fantastic report on health effects of chemicals in feminine hygiene products was published in 2013 by Women’s Voices for the Earth that you can read HERE.
Unfortunately the problem with tampons does not end at cotton. Most tampons are actually made of a rayon/cotton blend and rayon presents its own set of concerns in addition to it also contributing dioxins. Rayon is made from recycled wood pulp that must be treated with chemicals such as acetone and sulphuric acid during manufacturing. Call me crazy but I have some concerns that the same chemicals used to remove nail polish or make fertilizer are being marketed as safe to put inside of me.
In addition, the rayon in tampons are a risk in terms of their fibers being left behind inside the vagina, causing damage to the mucous membranes. This increases the risk of developing not only toxic shock (TSS), but also vaginitis, urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and even STI’s.
~ The fibres can also become embedded in the vaginal walls and amplify the production of Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin which causes Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a potentially fatal illness. ~ Organics institute, 2016
So….. what can we do knowing all of this?
An easy change to make is buying organic tampons and feminine hygiene products. The benefits to this are actually two-fold: 1) these organic products are better for your health and 2) your money goes towards companies that are diligent in their manufacturing in terms of both your health and the environment.
~ Certified organic cotton is free of residues from chemical pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers and defoliants commonly used on conventionally grown cotton and certified organic producers work in harmony with the environment ~ Organics institute, 2016
These products are only marginally more expensive (I promise) and are available everywhere from drug stores to major chains to health food and specialty organic outlets. Plus the only difference is the chemicals and colour, and I would rather have a beige chemical free tampon than a carcinogenic sterile white one any day! Maybe that’s just me though….
While this post is focused on tampons I also recommend going organic with femanine pads, though they pose less of a risk since they are not placed inside you, the process and chemicals in them are just as hazardous.
I am going to be extremely personal here and share that I have only used tampons a handful of times in my life…in those “emergency” instances where that’s all I could find. I only use pads and only use organic because that’s all I can use.
This research and why I only use pads actually started from my curiosity as to why as a baby my mom could only use cloth diapers for me due to extreme allergies. My own children had a similar reaction and while I did alternate between cloth and regular diapers I often just left them naked and both were potty trained before 2 because I didn’t want them in anything! Diapers and adult incontinent products are basically the exact same in terms of risks, and although it was a huge pain for my mom and myself to have babies that were allergic, I am also grateful that because of our bodies reactions myself and my kids have never had this exposure. So for those of you with young children or those needing incontinence products this information is also something to consider when you are doing your shopping.