Are Feminine Hygiene Products Safe?
“As you are well aware, manufacturers are not required to provide this information to consumers,” Birnbaum wrote in a letter responding to Maloney’s call for more research. “Tampons can contain a variety of potentially harmful chemicals and abrasive materials. Tampons treated with chlorine bleach can contain detectable levels of dioxins, which have been linked to a number of adverse health effects and diseases.
”But Birnbaum wrote that two studies, published in 2002 and 2005, concluded that women are exposed to far higher levels of dioxins through what they eat and drink than through tampon use.
The NIH already is doing research related to the safety of personal care products, Birnbaum wrote. A study is collecting information about the use of personal care products to see how it might affect breast cancer risk and other health problems. And the toxicology program is conducting studies with the EPA “aimed at improving tools for assessing environmental exposures from personal care products, including feminine hygiene products,” she wrote.
Procter & Gamble company spokeswoman Laura Dressman says in an email that “while ingredient information has been on our packaging and website for years, we recently updated the information along with a total refresh of our website.” Tampax packages list ingredients, but Always packages do not, Dressman says. The company holds the biggest share of the U.S. sanitary protection market, according to Euromonitor International.
“For decades, our feminine care products have provided protection and comfort for women around the world, and that protection begins with safety,” Dressman says. The company shares information about its feminine care products with independent experts, including medical consultants and university scientists, and the FDA, she says.
Devices and Cosmetics
The FDA considers tampons and pads medical devices, and classifies them based on the amount of risk they pose. The least risky are class I, while the most risky are class III. Tampons are class II devices, along with thermometers and blood pressure cuffs. Pads are I or II, generally depending on whether they have any fragrance.
The agency has issued “guidance” to tampon and pad makers on earning FDA approval. It recommends that manufacturers submit a list of materials used to make their products, such as chemicals, additives, and finishing agents, and an analysis of the risk of vaginal injury, tissue reactions, and infections, FDA spokeswoman Deborah Kotz says. But it’s not required. The FDA also asks for -- but does not require -- testing to make sure the products don’t cause reactions or help with the growth of bacteria, such as those that cause toxic shock syndrome, Kotz says.