Healthy periods

Photo: istockphoto.com/Vicki Stephenson
What impact is your period having on the environment? Overlooked pollutor We're all doing our best to be environmentally responsible by recycling, reducing and reusing but what about when it comes to our monthly periods? For many of us, flushing a tampon down the toilet is just a habitual part of dealing with a monthly inconvenience. But many of those plastic applicators are ending up on our beaches. According to the National Academy of Scientists, 52 million pounds of plastic packaging materials are dumped or lost in oceans each year and plastic tampon applicators are in the top ten list. Monthly pollution Statistics indicate that in the year 2000, over 55.9 million women in the United States alone were users of disposable menstrual products, and that as many as 14 billion pads tampons and applicators go in to North American landfills every year. In fact, the average woman may use up to 16,800 tampons in her lifetime! And that's not even factoring in the energy and resources required to make these products. That's no way to connect with Mother Earth! Friendlier methods There are lots of alternative ways to deal with your period that are a lot friendlier for the environment -- and in some cases, better for your body. Shock to the system As well as being harmful for the environmental, ordinary tampons can be harmful to your health. Most contain rayon and additives, and are usually chlorine bleached, a process which produces dioxin, a carcinogen. Dioxin has been linked to a damaged immune system, increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and reduced fertility and endometriosis. Tampons are used to connected to Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but serious disease that develops when toxins (produced by bacteria) get into the blood stream. Go plastic-free All-cotton, unbleached organic tampons are a healthier alternative: you'll avoid exposing your most intimate areas to chemicals and pesticides. Natracare, Seventh Generation and Organic Essentials all produce lines of all-cotton tampons that are available with or without applicators. They also make plastic-free, biodegradable pads, panty liners and organic cotton intimate wipes. Better protection One of the most effective ways to avoid adding to our already overtaxed landfills is to steer clear of disposable products and that includes pads and tampons. An increasingly popular alternative is a menstrual cup. Worn internally, the cups are designed to collect liquid, rather than absorbing it like a tampon (which can lead to uncomfortable dryness). Devices like the Diva Cup , made from medical-grade silicone, and The Keeper, made from natural gum rubber, can be worn for many hours at a time, and are easy to use. And best of all – you can use the same cup for years. Although they may seem like an investment up front, they'll be saving you plenty of money in the long run because you'll never have to buy –or throw away -another box of pads or tampons in your menstruating-life! Creative solutions Companies like Luna Pads make resusable menstrual pads that can be washed in the machine. The bright 100% cotton pads are soft and pretty, and because they aren't made with plastic, they are much more breathable than your average disposable pad. Some women choose to use natural sea sponges instead of disposable tampons. The ones made by Sea Pearls are made from renewable Atlantic sea sponge, an absorbent, natural material that is reusable for up to six months. Don't blush and don't flush And it's important to remember that even if the package says a product is ‘flushable', avoid sending your used tampons and applicators down the toilet. Wrap them and place them in a waste container instead – it's the best way to avoid seeing them washed up on the beach later! Meredith Dault is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.