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‘Chem Fatale’ Report Highlights Dangers in Feminine Care Products

Hormone disruptors, carcinogens, among toxic chemicals found in tampons, douches, wipes and more

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 6, 2013

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Alexandra Scranton, alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 396.1639, mobile
Caitlin Copple, caitlin.j.copple@gmail.com, (406) 493.4281, mobile
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WASHINGTON, D.C.— “Chem Fatale,” a new report by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), details how the feminine care industry sells products containing unregulated and potentially harmful chemicals, including preservatives, pesticides, fragrances and dyes. The report kicks off a new campaign that will target Proctor & Gamble, makers of Tampax and Always, to disclose the ingredients in tampons and pads and eliminate toxic chemicals, and to encourage consumers to demand more government oversight of the $3 billion feminine care industry.

“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 the report. “Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of their ingredients on women’s health.”

Tampons are used by up to 85 percent of menstruating women and may contain dioxins or pesticide residues linked to cancer, hormone disruptors, allergens and irritants from fragrance. Feminine wipes, feminine washes and feminine deodorant products contain toxic preservatives like parabens, which may be hormone disruptors, or quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which release cancer-causing formaldehyde.  Most feminine care products are fragranced and commonly contain known fragrance allergens—including anti-itch products.  These chemicals sometimes exacerbate the very symptoms a woman is intending to self-treat with these products.

According to the report, black and Latina women may be disproportionately affected by these chemicals as they are greater users of products such as douche and feminine wipes. Black women are more likely to use feminine sprays and powders than women of other races and ethnicities.

“It is well known that black women face health disparities for numerous diseases,” said Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, Director of Environmental Health for WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “This report highlights how much more we need to know about the potential impact of feminine care product use on black women’s health.”

Current regulations on chemicals used in feminine care products are not sufficient to protect public health, and often don’t require the ingredient disclosure needed to assess safety, according to WVE’s report. Tampons and pads are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies are not required to disclose any ingredients in these products. Other feminine care products, regulated as cosmetics, must label their ingredients, but any fragrance ingredients can be kept secret from consumers.

“Knowledge is power,” added Cristina Aguilar, Interim Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. “But in this case, we know that many of the most dangerous products that are found to cause chronic diseases also target women of color. The reality is knowledge isn’t enough—Latinas who already have health disparities, also face financial, economic, and geographic barriers to accessing safe alternatives.”

The American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) specifically recommend against intravaginal cleaning (douching) and have associated the practice with adverse health outcomes such as increased bacterial infections. The ACOG also recommends against the use of fragranced tampons and pads, as well as feminine sprays and powders, to help prevent or clear up vulvar disorders.

“The chemicals used in these products are a real concern given the inevitable exposure to sensitive and absorptive vulvar and vaginal tissue,” said Dr. Ami Zota, a professor of occupational and environmental health at George Washington University. “There is a clear need for more research on the health effects of these exposures on women’s health.”

The report also includes a “Hall of Shame” appendix highlighting examples of feminine care products that contain toxic chemicals by brand name.

Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.

Available for Interviews

Andrea Donsky, Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N.), founder of NaturallySavvy.com, author of Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart, producer of viral “Pads on Fire” video.
andrea@naturallysavvy.com, (416) 315-2398

Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, Director of Environmental Health, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
OGONNAYA@weact.org, (212) 961-1000, extension 310

Ryann Nickerson, Communications Director, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)
ryann@colorlatina.org,(303) 393-0382

Dr. Ami Zota, Professor, George Washington University
azota@gwu.edu, (617) 512.6045

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November 5, 2013

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