FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Environmental health organization, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), is raising concerns about the use of nanosilver in menstrual products like period underwear and pads, calling particular attention to the antibacterial agent’s impact on important bacteria necessary for maintaining vaginal and vulva health.
“Disruptions of good bacteria in the vagina can lead to bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and fertility concerns,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s Director of Science and Research. “If anything, we need to be protecting and promoting good bacteria in our vaginas for our health. Antibacterials are just doing the opposite.”
Nanosilver (minute silver particles) is commonly incorporated into athletic clothing to make it “antibacterial” in an effort to reduce odor. In recent years, it has also been unnecessarily incorporated into certain period care products including absorbent menstrual underwear, and some menstrual pads (generally those pads marketed as containing an “anion strip” or other “ion technology”).
“Unfortunately, while nanosilver in period products is increasing, the studies on the effects of this antibacterial agent on vaginal and vulvar tissue are insufficient at best, and non-existent at worst,” said Scranton. “And what we do know is cause for alarm.”
In a new fact sheet released by WVE, emerging science shows that nanosilver is effective at killing various strains of lactobacilli, an important and beneficial bacteria for a healthy vagina.  In addition, a study on rabbits showed that nanosilver can be cytotoxic, particularly to vaginal epithelial cells, and that vaginal administration of nanosilver led to migration of silver particles into the bloodstream; how nanosilver is impacting human vaginal health is still unknown. 
Despite the significant recent increase in use of nanosilver as an antibacterial additive to menstrual products, there is no research available measuring the potential migration or absorption of nanosilver into vaginal tissue from product use. In response to concerns for the potential hazards of nanosilver migration from menstrual products, the FDA, with the support of the Office of Women’s Health, is now pursuing research in this area to examine the penetration and absorption of nanosilver into vaginal tissue and the toxic potential to the tissue and the vaginal microbiome from the use of menstrual products. 
“Nanosilver is infamously migratory; it has been a concern of environmental organizations for over a decade, as studies show again and again that nanosilver from clothing is ending up in the environment. In other words, we know that the nanosilver in our clothing isn’t staying there,” said Scranton. “Period products come into contact with one of the most absorbent parts of the body and it is unacceptable that we are only just starting to scratch the surface on how this unique route of exposure from this antibacterial is impacting health.”
New Yorkers’ Right to Know
Not all period underwear or menstrual pads are made with nanosilver, but unfortunately companies who make these products are not required to disclose their ingredients. Menstrual products (including tampons, pads, period underwear and cups) are considered “medical devices” by the FDA and are not subject to ingredient labeling. As a result, a full list of ingredients used in these products are rarely disclosed publicly, including nanosilver.
“Instead, manufacturers will commonly use language claiming their products are ‘antibacterial’ as a selling-point, without letting people know exactly what they are being exposed to,” said Amber Garcia, Executive Director at WVE. “Harmful chemicals have no place in a product, especially those meant to support health. And disclosure of the ingredients used in the products we bring into our homes and use in and on our bodies is a right and necessary to make informed decisions about our health.”
Bill A.164 / S.2387 introduced by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (Senate District 19) requires ingredient labeling on the packaging of all menstrual products sold in New York State. If the bill passes, it would be the first such law to take effect in the nation.
“We know what’s in the food we eat, the medicine we take, and the clothes we wear. We, along with millions of consumers, have an absolute right to know what’s in our menstrual products,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal and Senator Roxanne Persaud, sponsors of A.164/S.2387. “Our bill to require that menstrual products be labeled will help empower consumers, who should not have to guess at the ingredients in the products they use in and on the intimidate parts of their bodies, to make more informed choices.”
“We learned that menstrual products on store shelves can contain dioxins and furans, unknown fragrance chemicals, pesticides, and more recently, the harmful antibacterial nanosilver. Yet period product makers don’t list these ingredients, keeping us in the dark. It’s time for New York State to lead the nation by requiring period product ingredient disclosure, because we deserve to know what is in the stuff we buy and use for hygiene. We can protect our health and the environment by requiring full transparency about toxic chemicals in products,” said Kathleen Curtis, LPN, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York.
In addition, federal legislation — The Menstrual Products Right to Know Act (H.R. 2268) — has been reintroduced by Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) that also requires ingredient disclosure of menstrual products.
Along with this disclosure bill, Rosenthal has championed other menstrual equity bills including no cost period products for menstruating individuals in New York’s schools, homeless shelters and correctional facilities, and led the way to eliminate the state’s tampon tax in 2016.
ABOUT Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE)
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. WVE’s menstrual products work was launched in 2013 with the report, Chem Fatale, and has helped elevate the topic of period health into the public mainstream. www.womensvoices.org
Beth Conway, Communications Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth
Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth