“There is so little that we know about what is in any feminine product, and what the exposures might be and what that is doing to our bodies,” Women’s Voices for the Earth Director of Science and Research Alexandra Gorman Scranton said. “I don’t think anyone is putting chemicals in these products to poison women, but the fact is, there is so little research about vaginal exposures, we don’t know what they are doing.”
There are roughly a dozen companies that make reusable, washable underwear meant to absorb menstrual flow. The products can be especially attractive to women who don’t want to use tampons or other internal devices, but who find sanitary napkins cumbersome.
Toxins in sanitary products can be especially concerning due to the limited research on how vaginal tissue absorbs chemicals, and whether that could have different impacts than chemicals absorbed through skin.
That lack of information has had devastating consequences in the past — it took decades for manufacturers to acknowledge that the presence of asbestos in talcum powders, used to control vaginal odor, could cause ovarian cancer.
“There is still very much an attitude of not knowing and purposely not knowing what damage can be done by trace chemicals,” Vostral said.
Scranton’s group, Women’s Voices for the Earth, successfully pushed Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark in 2015 to disclose ingredients in their tampon and pads brands like Always, Tampax and Kotex.