Household Detox Part 1: It's Toxic Being a Woman
Men, don't skip this post. If you have a wife/girlfriend, sister, daughter, etc., this is important for you to know as well.
Chemicals in the air, pesticides in our food, parabens in our beauty products; all toxins we are breathing or absorbing through our skin, into our blood stream and straight to our organs. I know, I can hear the collective sigh; when you start breaking down ingredients, it feels like nothing is safe these days.
I’ve been planning to do few posts on creating a toxic-free home with tips on revamping items that are silently making us sick, like common cleaning supplies and beauty products, and I felt that the feminine product category needed it’s own post.
The average woman in the United States will use upwards of about 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, the majority of which, are made of conventional cotton treated with insecticides and pesticides.
So why is this a concern?
The skin in and around the vaginal area is more permeable than other skin, making it one of the fastest gateways to the bloodstream. Pharmaceutical companies produce topical prescriptions for vaginal application specifically because it is such a reliable delivery mechanism and absorption results are systematically higher than if the same dosage is taken orally.
Bad news for us; this means that feminine products, with even low levels of chemicals or fragrance, are more toxic than we may think, especially when you consider an item like a tampon or pad which is being kept in this delicate area for extended periods of time. Truly, that pun was not intended.
So what are the other ingredients of concern and where are they found?
These ingredients are found in the most popular feminine products on the market today and are being used on a regular basis for a large chunk of our lives, starting as early as age 7 in the United States.
Yes, you read that correctly. A recent study published in Pediatrics shows that 16% of 7-year-old girls and 30% of 8-year-old girls have already started puberty. As a mother of a daughter, this statistic scares me, yet it doesn’t surprise me.
Since I come from a line of women with hormonal disorders (and all appearing earlier in age with every generation) I have worked tirelessly to provide an environment for my daughter that limits her exposure to chemicals or added hormones so she doesn’t suffer as much as we have. Here’s what we currently do for her:
- Primarily organic, grass-fed and non-GMO diet
- Limited dairy
- Organic or not, milk is not produced unless the animal's body believe it is feeding offspring; there is no such thing as hormone-free milk
- Chemical-free cleaning supplies in our home
- Chemical/Paraben/etc.-free body wash, lotions, ointments, etc.
- BPA-Free and (and more recently BPS-free) Phthalate-free Household items
- BPA is a synthetic estrogen and endocrine disruptor found in most plastics (cups, water bottles, storage containers, toys, etc.) and is associated with health concerns such as infertility, cancer, diabetes and early puberty.
- Organic mattress
- Children are spending 2/3 of their lives breathing what gasses off their mattress, causing not only hormonal disruption, but respiratory issues as well
While these are all great things to do, some studies are may reveal a few other contributors:
- Higher obesity rates
- Excess fat alters and accelerates hormone levels
- Increased Meat Eating
- Increased insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) which can accelerate hormone production
The only thing that bothers me from this list is the meat correlation. I love to eat a good steak! My body is insulin-resistant, so I’ll have to be careful. Hopefully there are some changes you find that you can make to help your household promote a toxic-free environment for your entire family.
To bring this full circle, children are exposed to so much more chemicals than we, our parents, grandparents (you get the picture) ever were, so something like early puberty is nothing to brush off or even accept as normal. I would be elated, ecstatic, thrilled, even, if my daughter makes it to age 14 before she gets her period.
So what about those who already have their period? Should you ditch your tampons? YES!
Organic tampons are an option, though pricey....but wait!
Update: Since this was posted, The Honest Company has begun selling organic pads, liners and tampons at a more affordable price! Check them out here and select "Personal Care."
However, I have been using a Menstrual Cup for 18 months, and I can tell you, I’ll never go back to anything else.
Yes, while they are a little scary to look at first, they are:
- Just as easy to use as a tampon
- Re-usable (no more trips to the store, $$$ savings and no more waste!)
- Capable of holding more fluid (fewer changes and accidents)
- Can be used in anticipation of period (remember, tampons are associated with TSS - please be cautious of the new TSS Vaccine!) and
- Made out of high quality medical-grade silicone (so no endocrine disruption!)
If you cannot wear a tampon, there are organic pads available as well. But should you make this leap to a cup, and I highly encourage you to, try it for 3 months before making up your mind. The first month is a little awkward and the second month isn’t much better. The third month you start to get the hang of it, and by month 4, you are wondering how you ever lived without it.
This site has detailed instructions and photos on how to fold the cup for proper insertion. I’m particularly fond of the “C Fold”
I also wear Dear Kate's leak proof panties during every period - mostly in anticipation so I don't ruin any underwear or bleed through my clothes, but I wore these throughout my pregnancy and women who bleed heavily at night have told me these are a life saver! See my review here.
As far as all the other feminine products, I’d advise you to look up what’s listed on the labels and ingredients. I’d encourage you to do some reading if you feel particularly attached to douching or feminine wipes, sprays or washes. Speak to your healthcare provider since what you may be trying to solve with these items could be a sign of an underlying health issue, and in many cases, these products could be aggravating the problem.