INDIA: Sanitary napkins from popular brands, which advertise as safe and healthy for menstrual health, are wrapped in toxic chemicals, as found in a new study.
Sanitary napkins, which are widely sold in India, contain cancer-causing contaminants, says a study by the NGO.
According to the study, roughly 90% of commercially available sanitary pads in the Indian market contain plastic, which is one of the most important components. It is not the only reason for our concern, though. The chemicals added to these pads have the potential to seriously harm your health.
The NGO examined different pads and discovered traces of phthalates, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing contaminants. The finding is crucial in light of the substantial proportion of Indian women who use sanitary pads because there aren’t enough healthy alternatives.
Dr. Amit, one of the investigators and the programme coordinator of the environmental NGO Toxics Link, said, “It is alarming to learn that several dangerous compounds, such as carcinogens, reproductive poisons, endocrine disruptors, and allergens, are present in routinely used sanitary items.”
The NGO that is a part of the International Pollutants Elimination Network looked at ten different brands of pads (both organic and inorganic) that are sold throughout India, and they discovered phthalate and volatile organic compound (VOC) residues in every sample.
Both contaminants can produce cancerous cells. In some of the pads that Toxics Link analysed, the concentrations were up to three times higher than the European regulatory standard.
What makes this more worrisome is that the probability of the body absorbing the harmful chemicals from the sanitary pads is very high. Dr Aakanksha Mehrotra, a programme coordinator at Toxics Link who took part in this study, shed light on the issue.
She added, “As a mucous membrane, the vagina can secrete and absorb chemicals at a higher rate than the skin.”
In India, there is a growing movement to encourage women to switch from less hygienic forms of protection to sanitary pads. However, the presence of harmful chemicals, such as carcinogens, is a fatal blow to the hard-won trust.
Chemicals present in sanitary pads
The list of harmful chemicals includes plastics and plasticizers, dioxins and furans, synthetic fragrances, pesticide residue, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Plastic can throw off the delicate balance of the vaginal microorganisms and cause issues including rashes and urogenital tract infections. The reproductive health of women can be seriously harmed by plasticizers.
Health issues linked to synthetic binders, adhesives, moisture barriers, absorbents, and fragrance compounds include infertility, endocrine disruption, cancer, and birth defects.
While dioxins and furans are bleaching chemicals that give sanitary pads a sterile and clean appearance, pesticide residue is an infrequent additive to the cotton used in them.
Sanitary pads contain phthalates, which have been causing extensive environmental issues. A sanitary pad with phthalates above the permitted limit (the EU standard of 0.1%) can put young menstruators in danger of chemicals being absorbed by the vulva’s delicate membranes.
This may have an impact on the cardiovascular system, female reproductive health, pregnancy, and foetal development.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are known for their high vapour pressure and low water solubility. Therefore, these are primarily found in deodorants, paints, nail polish, fuels, repellents, and automobile items.
Most of the time, individuals can breathe it in, and too much of it can cause serious issues like memory loss, paralysis, fatigue, irregular menstrual periods, and a lack of appetite. They are also included in sanitary pads as absorbents, adhesives, barriers, and scents.
While sanitary pads are subject to regulations in the European region, Priti Banthia Mahesh, the chief programme coordinator for Toxics Link, told the media that “the composition, manufacture, and usage of sanitary pads are not governed by a specific regulation in India.”
Instead, sanitary pads are subject to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which do not specifically address chemicals.
According to the most recent National Family Health Survey, sanitary pads are used by about 64% of women between the ages of 15 and 24. The use of pads is influenced by demographics and education. Pad usage is assumed to be higher in more prosperous societies.
In the meantime, the market for sanitary pads in India grew to USD 618.4 million in 2021. As per the IMARC group, this market is expected to show a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.3% from 2022 to 2027 and reach USD 1.2 billion.