Detox the Box

Detox the Box

Monday, September 15, 2014

From pads and tampons to vaginal washes and douches, when it comes to personal hygiene products – often labeled as “feminine” products – the market is saturated by a few big names and targeted exclusively to women. But did you know that many of the most well known and widely sold personal hygiene products contain toxic chemicals that can cause dangerous side effects? 

In 2013, Women's Voices for the Earth released “Chem Fatale,” a comprehensive report that shed light on toxic chemicals like carcinogens, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, and allergens that are present in many brands’ products, and have been linked to cancer and reproductive harm. Although some products list their ingredients, companies that produce pads and tampons aren’t required to do so because they’re regulated as medical devices rather than personal care. As a result of these disturbing findings, we united with partner organizations to create Detox the Box -- a campaign that educates and mobilizes people to demand that companies remove toxic chemicals from these products, and promise to list their ingredients on the box. 

Disappointingly, there are several familiar products in Women’s Voices for the Earth’s Hall of Shame for using toxic chemicals. But, on the bright side, they’ve compiled a list of companies that have committed to make products without them and to list their ingredients on the box. You can also check out their chemicals of concern in feminine care products list so that you’ll be aware of what ingredients to stay away from the next time you shop.

While the inclusion of toxic chemicals in personal hygiene products is undoubtedly unsafe for our bodies and the environment, this problem is also symptomatic of a broader cultural issue thattells women specifically that our bodies are not naturally clean (have you ever heard of “masculine” hygiene products?). Generations of strategic product marketing have subtly (and not so subtly) contributed to the dominant cultural narrative that women’s bodies are dirty and that bodily functions, like periods, are embarrassing. Therefore, society tells us that we need artificial fragrances, washes, and other products to purify our bodies and make them more acceptable because good old-fashioned soap and water aren’t enough.

In reality, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, and products like vaginal washes and douches aren’t only unnecessary, but damaging. This is because they disrupt a natural process, may cause an imbalance of bacteria, and increase chances of infection. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that women avoid douching completely, and research shows that women who douche regularly have more health problems than women who don’t.

Overall, the Detox the Box campaign delivers an important and necessary message to companies, but also the general public. Women deserve products that aren’t shaming, and to know what ingredients are being used in the products we buy, because as the campaign slogan says, “chemicals don’t belong in feminine products. Period.”