Plastic Periods: The Environmental Impact of Sanitary Products
Once a month, the routine for most people who menstruate is the pretty much the same. You slap on a sanitary pad or unwrap a tampon, and call it a day. And the cycle repeats itself every few hours until your period is gone.
Often overlooked, this habit is doing damage to the environment and your health as well.
Pads and Tampons
We can all agree that disposable pads and tampons are the go-to product for majority menstruating Americans. The average person menstruates up 5 days a month –approximately 2,280 days over the course of their lifetime. Just one person alone can use up to 11,000 pads or tampons in their life. Many are unaware of the toxic ingredients that these products contain and what happens to them once they are thrown into the garbage.
It’s concerning because manufacturers aren’t mandated to share the ingredients in sanitary products due to the fact that they are considered a medical device. It makes you wonder how much exposure we get to these ingredients over the years. These products get so close to the most sensitive area in our body. The very least we deserve to know as menstruaters is what goes into these products.
As it is tampons can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. Although it’s very rare, it’s sickening that this is even occurring in the first place.
So what really is in our pads and tampons you may ask… Plastic
Most disposable sanitary products and their packaging contain non-biodegradable plastic and other synthetic materials such as glue. We’ve always been told that the tampon string is woven into the cotton, but turns out majority tampon cords are glued in. 1 package along of sanitary pads can contain the equivalent of about 4 plastic bags.
In North America, nearly 20 billion pads, tampons, and tampon applicators –which are not recyclable as a result of being in contact with human waste –are dumped into landfills annually. Since these products contain plastic, it’ll take at least 500-800 years for each pad and tampon to decompose. When these products are incinerated, these products release toxic fumes into the air, including carbon dioxide. Sanitary products are also polluting waterways and harming marine wildlife just because of the simple fact people litter their used products rather than throwing them away. Same thing happens in waterways as they do in landfills. When tampons and pads are embedded into the ocean, they won’t go anywhere for hundreds of years.
Flushed tampons, pads, and applicators can end up clogging sewing pipes, which can cause untreated wastewater to over flow. This wastewater can eventually make its way to creeks, streams, and rivers.
Make the switch to reusables menstrual hygiene products like menstrual cups, period underwear, or reusable pads. Reusables not only will save the planet, but also save you thousands of dollars.
Every little bit helps!
Give it a chance and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need.
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Izzy Delima is a recent graduate from Northern Illinois University. She pursued a degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Healthcare Administration. Izzy has always had a passion for wanting to help others and have the ability to improve their quality of life anyway she can. During her years at NIU she was Director of Public Relations of the organization she was part of who catered to those with visual impairment. She developed campaigns to create awareness for people who lacked knowledge about poor eyesight. This summer she’s bringing focus to proper menstrual hygiene. She’s spending her time researching chemicals and manufactured fabrics of sanitary period products. As a woman, vaginal health has become very important to her since working with uterUS. Her goal is to make it important for everyone else as well. She plans on pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical sales industry where she’ll have the ability to promote some of the best medication to healthcare professionals for patients who need it.