Friday, November 8, 2013

Vinegar Friday -- For women only


A community member sent me a private message last week to let me know what happened when she went to the doctor:

"I had to have a cervical/uterine biopsy yesterday, and one of the first things they do is swab the cervix with a vinegar solution on a big fat cotton swab stick. My doctor's talking me through all this, and she mentions the fact that it's only vinegar, very natural, and I almost busted out laughing. I thought, 'Put THAT in your Vinegar Fridays, Hana!'"

So I took her advice, and there you have it. I knew they were using vinegar to detect cancer in other countries, but I wasn't aware that we'd become so "advanced" here in the States. If you want to read more about it, click here to read my post, "In lieu of a pap smear." 

Since we're already on the subject of women's gynecological health, I thought it was the perfect time to share a report from Women's Voices for the Earth which was released this week. Below are key points of this important report. Click here for the full report and fact sheet. 

Chem Fatale: Potential Health Effects of Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products

I know you're already looking to eliminate hazardous ingredients from your home. But have you given any thought to what is in your feminine care products? Tampons, pads, douches, wipes, and sprays can all contain toxic chemicals which are coming into contact with some of the most absorptive tissue on your body!

In their new report, WVE examines unregulated toxic chemicals in these products that may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive problems, asthma, and allergic reactions. Chemicals of concern commonly used in feminine care products include cancer-causing chemicals, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, and allergens.

Here are some of the shocking highlights of the report:
  • While pads and tampons are used almost universally by all women, Black and Latina women use some feminine products like douches, wipes, and sprays in greater numbers than White women, meaning these women are disproportionately impacted by the toxic chemicals in these products.
  • Pads and tampons are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies don't have to disclose any ingredients in these products.
  • Other feminine care products are regulated as personal care products, which means that companies are legally allowed to keep fragrance ingredients a secret from consumers -- even the toxic ones.
  • Test results show dioxins, furans, and pesticide residues in tampons, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.
  • Lots of feminine care products contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a potent allergen. 
  • The FDA considers common chemicals in feminine washes to be safe "for external use only." However, it is extremely likely that some internal vaginal exposure will occur from regular use.
  • Anti-itch creams commonly contain chemicals that are either allergens or irritants, and can actually exacerbate the very symptoms that women are attempting to treat.
  • Because of weak regulation, companies do not have to prove the chemicals they are using in these products are safe. That means companies are legally allowed to use ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects, and other chronic diseases.
What WVE Has to Say 

"Feminine care products are not just your average cosmetics, because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbent part of a woman's body," said Alexandra Scranton, WVE's Director of Science and Research and author of this report. "Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of these ingredients for women's health."

So, what's a woman to do? 

Ways to Reduce Exposure
  • Avoid Hall of Shame products found here
  • Read the labels to avoid chemicals of concern listed here
  • Look for brands that disclose all ingredients, including what's in fragrance
  • Eliminate use of products that may be unnecessary to a healthy vagina
  • Choose unscented products where available (particularly tampons and pads)
  • Choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton tampons and pads
  • If you are having allergic symptoms, switch brands! When you do switch -- call the company's 1-800 customer service to tell them why
  • Tell the FDA if you've had symptoms that may be from a feminine care product. Call 1-800-332-1088 or fill out a consumer reporting form available here
  • Completely eliminate disposable feminine care products altogether by switching to mama cloth reusable pads and panty liners and reusable menstrual cups (Note: this last tip was not included in the report, but is something I personally recommend)
Action: Asking Procter & Gamble to Disclose Ingredients

While we love to pink wash everything for breast cancer awareness, the fact is no one wants to talk about this aspect of women's health. Therefore, it is not getting the attention it needs. 

That's why we're talking about it. Toxic chemicals have no place in feminine care products. PERIOD. And we're going to do something about it!

Join WVE and Green Grandma in asking Proctor & Gamble, makers of Tampax tampons and Always pads, to disclose the ingredients in those products and remove toxic chemicals linked to women's health problems. Click here to take action! 

Thank you for caring, not only for your own health, but for the health of your daughters and granddaughters, and mine! Change is only possible when we start to demand it.

Caring for our health,

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