Director of Science and Research
Last week we released our new fact sheet on nanosilver use in period products (namely some menstrual underwear and certain menstrual pads with anion strips). We felt it was important to share our concerns with the recent growing trend of incorporating “antibacterial properties” into these products that have intimate contact with sensitive vulvar and vaginal tissue.
Making things “antibacterial” is a trend that didn’t start with period products but one that is happening all over (like in your kitchen, your bathroom – even on your toothbrush!) The idea is based on the fear that bad bacteria are out there to make you sick and to make you smell bad. So, we need to introduce antibacterial agents to kill the bad stuff and make you healthy and clean.
Sounds like a plan…except for the fact that we often forget about all the good bacteria that get caught in the crossfire. And when it comes to vaginas…a healthy balance of good bacteria is what it’s all about. Disruptions of good bacteria in the vagina can lead to significant health problems – including bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, fertility concerns and yes, unpleasant odor. If anything, we need to be protecting and promoting good bacteria in our vaginas for our health. And antibacterials are just doing the opposite.
Nanosilver is one of the latest high-tech antibacterial trends. It can be incorporated (invisibly) into fabrics – and is commonly used in athletic clothing with the promise/hope that now your gym bag won’t stink. Sadly, reviews on that are largely mixed – turns out you still have to wash your gym clothes (and that gym bag) no matter what they are made of. And the scary thing – is that we don’t know nearly enough about nanosilver to be using it safely. We know that it can migrate out of clothing – and that we have no control over where it goes from there. We have no research on whether or how much nanosilver might be absorbed by your body, and what effects it might have once its circulating around in your blood. We have zero research specifically on what nanosilver does to the delicate balance of important microbes and bacteria that keep the vagina healthy. (Although we know from lab studies that nanosilver is really effective at killing lactobacillus – a crucial family of microbes commonly found in the vagina.)
So, do we know for sure that nanosilver in these products is dangerous and harmful to our health? Nope. That’s never been researched either. And we’re not the only ones who think we need to know more about nanosilver in period products — the FDA, with the support of the Office of Women’s Health, is now pursuing research in this area to examine questions on absorption of nanosilver into vaginal tissue and health impacts of nanosilver exposure from the use of menstrual products. Certainly in the meantime, there are many valid reasons for concern that make me want to take precautions to avoid nanosilver exposure. I just don’t believe that the purported pay-off of including nanosilver in period products (which has also never been demonstrated by research) is worth the potential risk.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that numerous alternative period products are out on the market and flourishing! I love that many of the new companies are run by women and are truly innovative, thinking outside the box. But this antibacterial/nanosilver trend is just that – a trend – and it has got to go. We can make amazing period underwear and pads (that work just as well) without including a potentially harmful antibacterial layer. We can make products that are designed instead to promote and protect the healthy bacteria we need.
So join us! Talk with your favorite companies. Ask for products without added antibacterials like nanosilver. And we can change the trajectory for the better together.
Want to do more?
- Support important right-to-know legislation like New York’s A.164/S.2387 and the federal The Menstrual Products Right to Know Act (H.R. 2268) that require full disclosure of ingredients used to make period products including pads, tampons, cups and menstrual underwear. Unfortunately, companies that make period products are currently not required list their ingredients, including nanosilver. Let’s change this!
- Help spread the word! Share this blog or this fact sheet on social media.
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