It’s shocking to me the chemicals that make their way into our daily products. But even more shocking is what that means for women’s health. This post is devoted to keeping our lady areas free from potentially toxic chemicals. From underwear to tampons, it’s possible for a lot of stuff to get near (or in!) areas that no toxins should be near (and I’m not talking about your ex).
First, we need to talk about cotton. Why choose organic cotton?
Think of organic produce. The concern is not just about the pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the fruits and vegetables that you can then eat, but that those chemicals also make their way into the soil, water and air. The same thing happens with cotton. I was having some trouble finding up-to-date info on a reputable website about cotton so went straight to the source – the USDA. The most recent report I could find was from May 2014 and showed the cotton is the 4th largest crop for using pesticides, right under corn, soybean and potatoes. Yikes.
What I find interesting about pesticides is that the EPA considers many “safe”, except most pesticides also have usage requirements that no person can go near the crop for 24 hours after spraying. If it’s so safe – why the 24 hour wait period before you can even be around it? Roundup (glyphosate) and its derivatives are the most common pesticide used. A quick search on Google Scholar shows article after article discussing the harmful effects of glyphosate, in both animals and humans. Sadly, this article explains that females who work near Roundup have fertility problems and this article explains how Roundup is an endocrine disruptor. If you are not familiar with the term endocrine dispruptors, it includes any chemical that disrupts our endocrine, or hormonal, system. Endocrine disruptors in children have been shown to affect puberty. In women, it can cause fertility problems and endometriosis.
The beauty of organic cotton is that it doesn’t use any of these chemicals. No pesticide residues making its way near your skin, and no pesticides leaching into our soil and water.
So why should we care about cotton? Well, it is obviously used in our clothes but it is also used in tampons and pads.
Can I just admit something – I really don’t care for the term “feminine hygiene products.” It kind of insinuates that we are ‘dirty’ in some way and need hygiene. I dunno, I really just don’t like it. So I’m going to say tampons and pads because that is what I use.
I should also mention that there are eco-alternatives to the traditional tampons and pads. There are menstrual cups (Diva Cup being a popular one), as well as cloth pads/pantyliners. I have tried cloth pantyliners and the Diva Cup and unfortunately they didn’t really work for me. However, I personally know women who use these and love them so its always worth a try.
But back to tampons and pads. As you might guess from what I mentioned above with cotton, non-organic cotton has a lot of chemicals that aren’t so great. And while it would be nice to think that those chemicals are removed in processing, unfortunately, studies have shown that tampons and pads contain harmful chemicals. They are in small amounts – but they are still there. Some of these include leftover pesticide residues, by-products from bleaching, as well as added fragrance. Why fragrance is added to pads and tampons is beyond me – but synthetic fragrances are especially bad because they are known endocrine disruptors. Even dismissing the potential of harm from pesticide residues and bleaching by-products, that last thing you want to do is put endocrine disruptors (found in synthetic fragrances) into the area that is directly affected by endocrine disruptors.
These harmful chemicals are especially bad when in tampons because our vaginal wall is more absorptive than our skin – meaning even very small amounts of chemicals can be absorbed easier in a tampon vs. if was applied to our skin. Also, because tampons are often kept in for hours at a time – it allows more opportunity for these chemicals to be absorbed.
As far as brands of organic tampons and pads, I have tried a few, and my favorite is Natracare.
Now let’s chat about clothing. I admit that not all of my clothes are organic (no judgement please – this is a judgement free blog). BUT, I do wear organic cotton underwear. After all, that is a very sensitive area. The last thing I want are chemical residues anywhere near there.
I tried quite a few underwear brands from different clothing companies and for awhile I could not find any that fit me well. They were either too high, or flappy, or uncomfortable. I then picked up some PACT underwear quite a few years ago when they were on sale at Future Standard, which now appears to focus more on content than their online shop…but I digress. I instantly fell in love with PACT. Fast forward many years and I started this blog and I still love PACT – they are my go-to undies. They are SO soft, it’s ridiculous.
I do have to mention their sizing is a bit off for me. I have learned that while I am pretty petite (size 0 in womens), because I am curvy and their bikini sits low, I wear a size Medium. I can fit a small but its too tight in the butt for my personal preference. So just keep that in mind if you end up trying their underwear!
Now that we have underwear out of the way, we need to look at the laundry detergent used to wash the clothing. Even if you buy organic clothes, if you are washing them in dioxins, phthlates, synthetic fragrances and who knows what else – that’s a problem. Women’s Voices for the Earth is a non-profit and a few years ago paid independent laboratories to test the ingredients found in common cleaning products. You can read the report here if you like, but the Cliffs Notes is that there are a LOT of harmful ingredients in laundry detergent (and cleaning products in general for that matter).
There are quite a few natural brands of laundry detergents and I have talked about some favorites in past posts already. Two that I have been using lately are Zum Laundry Detergent and Eco Nuts liquid laundry detergent.
I first tried Zum because I’m a big fan of their soaps (I’m currently using their Sandalwood Citrus bar and love it, even my boyfriend loves the scent), and they had a sale online and well – I’m a sucker for sales. I picked up the Lavender detergent and was instantly in love. The best part is that it is concentrated and so you only need a very small amount for a large load of laundry. The scent is so strong it actually makes my laundry room smell good when I do laundry – need I say more? (and don’t worry about their fragrance, it is made with essential oils and is all natural!)
If you haven’t heard of soap nuts, also called soap berries, they are berries that grow on trees that naturally contain soap. You add them to your washing machine like you would traditional laundry detergent and the natural soap in them will wash your clothes. While ‘nut’ is in the name, these are NOT nuts so if you have a nut allergy, they are fine. I bought some a few years ago to try, but I live in Arizona which has very hard water and they don’t work so well in hard water so unfortunately the soap nuts didn’t work so well for me. When Eco Nuts contacted me asking if I’d like to try them, I let them know I did in the past and they didn’t work so well. Lucky for me they came out with a liquid detergent just for use in hard water and it works great! The laundry detergent doesn’t have any scent, and is very gentle. This is great for your delicates or even baby clothes. I wouldn’t use this for tough stains, but is great for every day and especially if you have sensitive skin.
Moral of this post: stay away from products with artificial fragrances and choose organic when possible! It’s better for the environment and it’s better for you. I hope this post hasn’t come across as too scary or alarming – but I think its important for women to know what they are putting on, in, or near their body. If you want to learn more, Women’s Voices for the Earth has some excellent reports on products related to women’s health.
Do you use organic care products? What are your favorites?
Disclosure: Some of these products were provided to me to try. Opinions and the choice to review are 100% my own! I’m not compensated for anything I write. This post contains affiliate links.