Are Feminine Hygiene Products Safe?
Nov. 2, 2015 — A typical woman goes through more than 12,000 sanitary pads or tampons over the decades that she has her period.
But is long-term use of sanitary protection safe?
Members of Congress and women’s health advocacy groups have raised concerns about a lack of research into the safety of tampons, pads, and other feminine hygiene products such as douches.
“The reality is menstrual health has been considered a taboo subject for too long,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, says in an email. “It’s time that feminine hygiene products are thoroughly researched so that we can ensure that complete and accurate information is being collected and made readily accessible.”
U.S. sales of tampons and sanitary pads totaled $3 billion last year, according to a report by Euromonitor International.
“There is no research that unequivocally declares these feminine hygiene products are safe, and independent studies by women’s health organizations have found chemicals of concern like dioxin, carcinogens, and reproductive toxins in tampons and pads,” Maloney wrote in April in an op-ed piece in The Guardian, a British newspaper.
Product makers and the FDA say sanitary and feminine hygiene products are safe, because they contain either no risky chemicals or only trace amounts. But Maloney and other women’s health advocates argue that no one can be sure, because studies of their effects over a woman’s lifetime haven’t been done. Meanwhile, an official with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says agency scientists are working with the EPA to look at chemicals of concern in personal care products such as tampons and pads.
Philip Tierno, Jr., PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU School of Medicine, has long studied the microorganisms that live in the vagina and the workings of toxic shock syndrome, a rare, potentially fatal condition that is linked to the use of highly absorbent tampons.
“Women assume that the FDA or other bodies have looked at the matter, and, therefore, whatever product is on the market is safe,” Tierno says. “And that’s incorrect.”