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Menstruation, health, and sustainability: how is everything connected?

Even the most natural things in life can have an impact on our planet. But how are menstrual products related to both your health and sustainability?

Having a period is absolutely natural, as old as human life itself. However, in the past decades, humans have dealt with periods in a very unsustainable way, both for the environment and for our health. At the centre of this are unsustainable period products – which, although being necessary then, can be changed for better alternatives now.

In what way are period products, health and sustainability connected, you ask? We’ll get right to it.

Menstrual products, health and sustainability: a long fight

Your average menstrual products, like pads, liners and tampons, have insane amounts of plastic in them. Don’t believe us? A regular menstrual pad or liner has plastic in all three layers, as well as the packaging which is almost always pure plastic.

Tampons contain much less plastic than pads and liners but are not free from it. The average tampon will have a thin plastic-like membrane around the cotton and the cord is mostly made from plastic, not to mention the packaging and the applicators.

The real question is: why is there so much plastic in such items, that are essential for half of the population on earth?

It all started in the late 20th century, with the goal of improving design, flexibility, and security. However, with the rise of eco-friendlier alternatives, the use of plastic in menstrual products rapidly became justified by the cheap mass production costs. Sadly, the planet and our health are who ultimately will pay the price.

No more plastic in the ocean

Although some parts of conventional menstrual products are recyclable, they never are for obvious health reasons. So, they end up in landfills. And since they are not biodegradable either, they end up polluting our planet for centuries. As a matter of fact, menstrual products and sanitary items do not only end up in landfills: they wash ashore in beaches and pollute our oceans as well.

A 2018 report from the European Commission about marine litter showed that sanitary items such as menstrual products were the fifth most common single use plastic items to be found in beaches. In addition to the impact of this kind of litter on ecosystems,  it constitutes a public health issue, too. Conventional menstrual products release micro- and nano-plastics while degrading (during the long, long years it takes) which harm marine life and humans by extension.

Did you know that the first plastic-filled menstrual products used in the 60’s are still around, and will be for another 400 years?

No more chemicals in our bodies

But the dangers of conventional menstrual products on your health are not only those derived from pollution. These items themselves are impregnated in enormous amounts of toxic chemicals such as fragrance, dyes, chlorine, bleach, pesticides, latex, or formaldehyde. These chemicals will, then, be in contact with one of the most sensitive areas in your body: your vagina.

As unbelievable as it sounds, millions of women all over the world continue using pesticide- and bleach-soaked tampons every month, plastic-stuffed pads or panty-liners every day of their lives, unknowingly. This happens because most manufactures do not disclose the components of their menstrual products. Since menstrual products are treated as medical devices, these companies are not legally mandated to do so.

How would the period habits of all these women change if they knew what they’re putting in their bodies?

No more unsustainable periods

While plastic-packed menstrual products did have their time in history – and, for the most part, improved the lives of one or two generations of women – now their time is over. The planet is reaching its boiling point, and it’s up to the newer generations to fix the damage. The time to start building a better world is now, and it includes making better choices.

Choose bamboo over plastic, organic cotton tampons over pesticide-soaked ones, choose biodegradable and reusable, demand natural instead of chemical. Remember, women in the 20th century did not have a choice over their menstrual products, but you do.

 

Share your thoughts with us and take good care! Of yourself. Of your community. Of your planet.

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