Women Rally in DC to Close Serious Gaps in Feminine Hygiene Product Regulation
Women’s Voices for the Earth, Seventh Generation, WE ACT, and others to rally on Capitol Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – On May 23, the nation’s leading environmental and women’s health advocates are gathering for a women’s health rally and lobby day in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. Hosted by national women’s health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), the rally on Capitol Hill will increase awareness of the need for feminine care product safety and demonstrate a grassroots show of support for federal legislation aimed at closing serious gaps in feminine hygiene regulation.
The event is being held in cooperation with Congresswoman Grace Meng, who has introduced legislation that requires manufacturers of tampons, pads and menstrual cups to fully disclosure ingredients on product labels. In addition, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has reintroduced her bill that provides research into the risks posed by the presence of dioxin, colorants, dyes, preservatives, fragrance and other chemicals used in tampons, pads and menstrual cups, as well as feminine wipes, douches and sprays.
“Millions of women use these products on a monthly basis that come into contact with one of the most sensitive and absorptive parts of the body,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth. “Toxic chemicals like these have no place in a product meant to support women’s health. And disclosure of the ingredients used in these products is necessary so that women can have the information they need to make safe choices to protect their reproductive health.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers very little regulation of feminine products. The FDA classifies feminine cleansing products, such as washes and wipes, as “cosmetics”. Yet, under current law, FDA does not approve cosmetics, or require testing to determine their safety. Tampons, pads and menstrual cups are considered “medical devices” by the FDA and are not subject to ingredient labeling. As a result, a full list of ingredients used in these products are rarely disclosed publicly.
Tampons are used by up to 85 percent of menstruating women and may contain dioxins or pesticide residues linked to cancer, hormone disruptors, allergens and irritants from fragrance. Feminine wipes, feminine washes and feminine deodorant products may contain toxic preservatives like parabens, which are linked to hormone disruption, or quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which release cancer-causing formaldehyde. Most feminine care products are fragranced and commonly contain known fragrance allergens—including anti-itch products. Allergens can sometimes exacerbate the very symptoms a woman is intending to self-treat with these products.
“There’s no questioning that we’re living in an environment where decision makers continue put women’s health second. It’s clear that now, more than ever, Congress needs to hear from women that our health is nonnegotiable,” said Switalski of WVE.
Along with Congresswomen Meng and Maloney, scheduled speakers include Erin Switalski, Executive Director at WVE; Ashley Orgain, Director, Mission Advocacy and Engagement at Seventh Generation; Tenya M. Steele, Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Meika Hollender, Co-Founder of Sustain; Amber Garcia, Field and Advocacy Manager with COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights); and Laura Strausfeld, Co-Founder of Period Equity.
“Seventh Generation has created a business founded in transparency, as one of the first home care companies to list our product ingredients right on the package, and is proud to join Women’s Voices for the Earth in this movement to fight for a woman’s right to know what is in the pads and tampons she uses,” said Ashley Orgain, Director, Mission Advocacy and Engagement at Seventh Generation. “We are teaming up to empower women to make informed decisions when it comes to the products we are putting in our bodies and strongly believe we have a right to avoid ingredients like fragrance – no matter how those ingredients are regulated.”
“As a woman of color, I frequently hear statistics about low-quality healthcare and poor health outcomes for African Americans, and particularly black women. With all the health issues facing us, worrying about toxic chemicals seeping into our most sensitive body parts should not be one of them. When corporations knowingly lace feminine hygiene products with toxins that are linked to birth defects, cancer, and many other reproductive health problems, they put profit over women’s health. My community needs strong ingredient disclosure laws so that we have enough information to decide on whether or not to use these products. And we must move to end the use of toxic chemicals in things like tampons, maxi pads, and all other feminine care products,” said Tenya Steele, Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
“We demand to know what’s in the products we rely on every month,” said Laura Strausfeld, co-founder of Period Equity. “Safe, accessible, and, tax-free feminine hygiene products should be a given in a world where half the population is affected. I’m grateful to WVE and Congresswomen Grace Meng and Carolyn Maloney for persisting in this fight and thrilled to be joining them to insist our government protect us from unsafe products.”
“We are pushing back on efforts to shame us for having sex or tell us that our vaginas are dirty. We will not be told to hate our bodies so companies can sell products that are actually hurting us! Women of color deserve better than to have dangerous products pushed on us that negatively impact our health, especially when too many of us continue to struggle to be able to afford quality care to prevent or treat issues stemming from these products,” said Amber Garcia, Field and Advocacy Manager with COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights). “We are calling on Congress to advance legislation to ensure transparency about ingredients and prevent companies from using chemicals that they know are dangerous. We reject toxic marketing messages and toxic chemicals and we demand safer products.”
Additional support organizations of the DC event include Turning Green, Black Women for Wellness, Environmental Working Group, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Sierra Club, Support the Girls, and New Voices for Reproductive Justice.
“It is astounding that manufacturers of tampons, pads, and menstrual cups are not required to list the ingredients of these products on the packaging. We can easily see ingredients used in the shampoo we put in our hair—why doesn’t this apply to products that touch, or are inserted into, sensitive female anatomy?” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “Consumers are being denied access to crucial information that affects their safety and enables them to make informed choices. My bill, the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act, would finally change that.”
This rally marks the latest escalation of Women’s Voices for the Earth’s campaign for safe feminine care products, also known as Detox the Box. Launched in 2013 with the report, Chem Fatale, WVE’s work has helped elevate the topic of feminine product safety into the public mainstream.
“This event is led by women – it is about our health,” said Jamie McConnell, WVE’s Director of Programs and Policy. “It’s a showing of the strength and the power we have to take control of our bodies and demand that our elected representatives make women’s health a priority.”
The rally starts at 12:00 PM EST on May 23, 2017, at the House Triangle on Capitol Hill. It is open to all public. Following the rally, advocates will lobby members of Congress, seeking support for Rep. Meng and Rep. Maloney’s bill. On May 24th, Rep. Meng will hold a Congressional Briefing at 10:00 AM EST at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Room 2255, Rayburn Building to discuss her feminine product safety and access bills.
Beth Conway, Communications Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth
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Molly Luby, Allison+Partners and Seventh Generation
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ABOUT Women’s Voices for the Earth
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. www.womensvoices.org