November 6, 2013
Let’s face it: Americans aren’t overly comfortable with vaginas. That simple fact has helped to grow a multi-billion-dollar U.S. market for products such as douche, feminine wipes and deodorants, and fragranced tampons and maxi pads, many of which are marketed as a “solution” to vaginal problems that are themselves marketing inventions. In fact, the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend against intravaginal cleaning as well as the use of fragranced tampons and pads, feminine sprays and powders.
A recent survey of available research on the effect of these products on women’s health, conducted by the nonprofit group Women’s Voices for the Earth, reveals that many feminine care products—particularly those that are heavily perfumed—contain high levels of potential carcinogens, as well as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can cause tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Because chemicals absorbed by the vagina do not have to be metabolized to make their way into all of the body’s systems (which is why some estrogenic drugs are intentionally administered vaginally), public health advocates are calling for closer regulation of these products as well as greater responsibility and transparency from the companies that manufacture them.