Toxic Talk and Labels

Chemicals in Feminine Care Products-New Report Increases Awareness

+ Pamela Friedman

Annual Report 2Our friends at Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) have been working hard to raise awareness of potential harmful chemicals in personal care products.

On November 6, 2013, they released a new report called “Chem Fatale” that targets a whole new group of products you may not have thought about before-feminine care products.

What the Report Says

Would you be surprised to learn that tampons, pads, douches, wipes, and sprays may all contain hazardous ingredients linked to health problems?

That’s what WVE discovered when they examined these products. Yet women are left in the dark, because pads and tampons, for example, are regulated as medical devices, which means companies don’t have to disclose any of the ingredients they use in them. Other feminine care products are regulated as personal care products, which means companies can keep fragrance ingredients secret, as well.

Test results found the following:

  • Dioxins, furans, and pesticide residues-which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption-were detected in tampons.
  • Many feminine care products contained formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Formaldehyde is an expected human carcinogen.
  • Though the FDA considers common chemicals in feminine washes to be safe “for external use only,” it is likely some internal vaginal exposure will occur from regular use.
  • Anti-itch creams commonly contain chemicals that may cause allergic reactions or skin irritations.

“Feminine care products are not just your average cosmetics,” says Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s director of science and research and author of the report, “because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbent part of a woman’s body. Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of these ingredients for women’s health.”

How to Protect Yourself

The WVE is asking a number of big manufacturers to disclose ingredients used in their feminine care products, and to remove all toxic chemicals linked to women’s health problems. Meanwhile, you can take steps to protect yourself from exposure:

  • Read labels and avoid the chemicals listed here.
  • Look for conscientious brands that disclose all ingredients, including those used in fragrances-better yet, choose fragrance-free.
  • Eliminate products that may be unnecessary to a healthy vagina.
  • Choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton tampons and pads (read more about toxins in tampons here).
  • If you experience a reaction from a feminine care product, call the company and tell them, and report the experience to the FDA at:

For more on the WVE Chem Fatale report, see their website at:

What do you think of this report? Will you change how you shop for feminine care products?

Picture courtesy WVE.