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What is the difference between reusable and contemporary menstrual products?
Why Switch to Reusable Menstrual Products?


What is the difference between reusable and contemporary menstrual products?
Contemporary menstrual products are linked to negative health and environmental outcomes. For the purpose of this FAQ, contemporary menstrual products refer to name brand pads and tampons including Tampax, Kotex, and Always. These products dominate the feminine hygiene industry. In the 1990s alternative products became available. These products (such as FabPads and Diva Cups) are organic, biodegradable, reusable, and have virtually no risk to the user or the environment. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................................... There are five main concerns with contemporary menstrual products. First, in the past, name brand manufacturers used chlorine bleaching in order to whiten their product. This creates a chemical called dioxin, which is linked to cancer, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), and Endometriosis (Bobel, 2006; Armstrong & Scott, 1992; Houppert, 1999). In the late 1990s, major commercial tampon brands began switching to either elemental “chlorine-free” or “totally chlorine free” bleaching processes (FDA, 1999). “But whereas the industry maintains that the dioxin risk is non-existent, even the FDA admits that the first method ‘can theoretically generate dioxins at extremely low levels and dioxins are occasionally detected in trace amounts in the mill effluents and pulp” (Bobel, 206; FDA, 1999). In addition, the whitening process is done solely for aesthetic reasons. There is no medical reason for bleaching pads and tampons. It does not make them sterile. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Second, a 1989 study by microbiologists Tierno and Hanna concluded that there was a strong “link between super absorbent synthetic materials and the production of the bacteria causing TSS” (Tierno & Hanna, 1989; Bobel, 2006). Manufacturers have since altered their products, but TSS has not been eliminated. Most contemporary tampons are made with a combination of cotton and rayon; however they are not required to label all of the ingredients. Contemporary tampons can leave bits of rayon in the vagina which is linked to vaginal ulceration and peeling of the mucous membrane, creating a breeding ground for infection (Bobel, 2006; SEAC, 2008; Wilkins, 2000). ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Third, non-biodegradable and disposable products contribute to environmental devastation. The average woman uses 16,800 sanitary pads and tampons in her lifetime and over 14 billion pads and tampons are put into North American landfills yearly (SEAC, 2008). In 1996, the National Pollutant Release Inventory reported “pulp (used in tampons and pads) and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land both in Canada and the United States, and releases well over a hundred million kg of toxic pollution each year” (SEAC, 2008). In addition, 25% of all the insecticides in the United States are used on cotton (SEAC, 2008). ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Fourth, is the exorbitant cost of contemporary menstrual products. One could potentially spend several thousand dollars during her ‘menstrual lifetime’ on disposable products, where as she could potentially spend a few hundred dollars on reusable products during her lifetime. One box of tampons/pads every month ($5-8 each) for 30-40 years equals $1800-3840. This cost does not included liners or other contemporary menstrual products that are often used (Bobel, 2006; SEAC, 2008). ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Finally, contemporary menstrual products are marketed and designed to obscure the reality of menstruation. Products are marketed to women to hide the fact of their bleeding by using materials that can be wrapped up and tided away. “Menstruation is constructed as a ‘problem’ that needs to be ‘solved.’ Premiums on discretion, convenience, modesty, and cleanliness are industry-promoted and cost women their self esteem and a positive affirming, menstrual experience” (Bobel, 2006; Charlesworth, 2001; Erchul, Chrisler, Gorman, & Johnston-Robledo, 2002). ......................................................................................................................................................................................... A 2002 study on menstrual product advertising by Erchul, Chrisler, Gorman, and Johnston-Robledo found the following themes: • Women need ‘protection’ from ‘accidents.’ In order for women to be confident, leaks and stains must not occur. This encourages daily vagina management (liners, feminine deodorant sprays, pre/post menstrual pills, multiple tampon sizes for different flows, pads have wings, ridges and channels, etc. Every day of month is a day to hide the fact that you have a living vagina. Advertisers would like women to believe that these systems in some way liberate women by offering choice and convenience which bestow freedom (and raise costs). • To avoid embarrassment, women must be diligent to prevent ‘getting caught.’ The objective is to ensure that no one will discover that they are menstruating through product discovery or bulky lines in clothing. • Women must appear normal (non-menstruating) at all times. Advertisements teach that the appearance of not having one’s period is always the ideal feminine state. This tells women that they must conceal/be ashamed of a natural physiological function of their body. • Women must not let their period prevent them from participating/acting normal. • Women stink and need to hide that stink at all times, hence women are dirty and unclean (being female = being dirty). The implication is that in the absence of these feminine hygiene products, a woman will not be able to achieve the ideal state of being fresh or clean due to her menstruating body. In addition, menstrual blood is dirty and the very act of menstruating makes women unclean and not fresh. • Tampon applicators exist, so women do not have to touch themselves. This suggestion can only serve to promote the idea that the female body is so dirty during menstruation that a woman would not even want to touch herself to put in a tampon. The same theme exists for pads that “wick away moisture” so that it will never touch the wearer. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Reusable pads are made with 100% cotton (organic and regular). They can be handmade or bought from retailers such as Fabpads or Moon Pads. Retailers make them in pretty prints and colors. They are softer and more breathable than disposable products which contain glue and plastics. This also means there is less irritation. Reusable pads can be hand washed or laundered. They do not stain the other items in the wash. This product’s reusability will save women hundreds to thousands of dollars over their menstrual lifetime. In addition, there is nothing to throw away, so there is no waste. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... The DivaCup is a cup made from medical grade silicone that is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluids (The Keeper is made from latex). Because it collects menstrual fluid, rather than absorbing it the way tampons do, there is no risk of contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome. It sits near the entrance to the vagina and the vaginal muscles hold it in place. It needs to be changed 2-4 times a day and can be worn overnight. This is an investment of about $30-40 every 10 years. There are two sizes available. In addition, there is nothing to throw away, so there is no waste. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Sea Pearls are natural Sea Sponge tampons. They are a renewable dioxin and rayon-free alternative to conventional tampons. Sponges are plant-like creatures that grown on the ocean floor. As they are an animal product, they are not vegan friendly. They can be cut to size and you can tie a string around it for easy removal. They need to be changed more often than tampons, and last about 3-6 months. They are also very soft. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Organic pads and tampons are very similar to conventional pads and tampons, except they are made of 100% organic cotton and are not bleached. They are still disposable and have high costs as well. Because they are not bleached, there is no dioxin, but there is still a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with the tampons. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................................... Bibliography • (FDA) Food and Drug Administration. (1999). Tampons and asbestos, dioxin, and toxic shock syndrome. Retrieved February 2, 2008 from http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/consumer/tamponsabs.pdf • (SEAC) Student Environmental Action Coalition. (n.d.). TampAction. Retrieved February 3, 2008 from http://www.seac.org/tampons • Armstrong, l., & Scott, A. (1992). Whitewash: Exposing the Health and Environmental Dangers of Women’s Sanitary Products and Disposable Diapers – What You Can Do About It! New York: Harper Perennial. • Bobel, C. (2006). “Our revolution has style”: Contemporary menstrual product activists “doing feminism: in the third wave. Sex Roles, 54 (5/6), 331-345. • Brooks-Gunn, J., & Ruble D. (1980). The menstrual attitude questionnaire. Psychosom Med 42, 503-512. • Charlesworth, D. (2001). Paradoxical constructions of self: Educating young women about menstruation. Woman and Language, 24 (2), 13-20. • Connelly, P. (2007). Fresh, clean – and hidden. Women’s Review of Books, 24 (4), 18-19. • Endicott, J., Nee, J., & Harrison, W. (2005). Daily Record of Severity of Problems (DRSP): reliability and validity. Archives of Women's Mental Health. 9 (1), 41-49. • Erchul, M. J., Chrisler, J. C., Gorman, J. A., & Johnston-Robledo, I. (2002). Education and advertising: A content analysis of commercially produced booklets about menstruation. Journal of Early adolescence, 22, 455-475. • Houppert, K. (1999). The Curse – Menstruation: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. • Tierno, P., & Hanna, B. (1989). Ecology of toxic shock syndrome: Amplification of toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 by materials of medical interest. Review of Infectious diseases, 11 (Suppl1), S182-6-S186-7. • Wilkins, E. (2000). Pull the Plug on the Feminine Hygiene Industry. Self-published zine.

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Why Switch to Reusable Menstrual Products?
1st: They are sooo much more comfortable! FabPads are made from 100% cotton flannels and fleeces which are most often softer than your underwear. Disposable pads are made from plastics, rayon and other chemicals that can irritate the sensitive skin of vulva. I'm personally allergic to disposable menstrual products. They give me an awful rash that itches like crazy! Also, because FabPads are made from cotton, they BREATHE! You don't get that sweaty, sticky feeling that you do with disposables. Not to mention NO GLUE! We've all had the disposable tape turn on us and stick to our hair. Reusable products don't have tape, so no more hair ripping! ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 2nd: Reusable products are healthier for our bodies. Disposable products are linked to the TOXIC chemical Dioxin which is a by product of the whitening process. Remember, disposables, even though they are bleached, they are not sterile! The Diva Cup is made from medical grade silicone and collects blood rather than absorbing it. Because of this, it is not associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 3rd: Reusable products are better for the environment. 14 BILLION pads, tampons and wrappers are thrown away every year in North America alone. By using a reusable product you are doing your part to lessen landfill waste. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 4th: You save money with Reusable products. Do the math with me. 1 box of disposable tampons/pads a month = $6. Multiply this by 12 months. Multiply that number by 30-40 years (the average time a woman menstruates). That's $2160-2800! And that is only if you spend $6 a month on menstrual products. Fabpads last 3-5 years (although some women report up to 10 years). If you buy the deluxe kit every 5 years ($115) for the 30-40 years you bleed, you are only $690-920. You could potentially save almost $2000!!

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Last Updated: 5 Aug 2008 20:36:21 PDT home  |  about  |  terms  |  contact
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