Intimate Hygiene Products Expose Women to Harmful Substances Says Study

With choices such as wet wipes, sprays, feminine powder, tampons, etc., women are spoiled when it comes to choices of feminine hygiene products. Still, a study by the University of Michigan showed that some of these products expose users to dangerous volatile organic compounds.

Women Intimate Hygiene

Women Intimate Hygiene

Women’s intimate hygiene products and habits can be dangerous. A team of researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that some users had high levels of volatile organic compounds in their blood.

Toxic substances found in the blood of users

Scientists have studied the intimate habits and health of 2,432 women between the ages of 20 and 49. Participants were invited to specify their use of tampons, sanitary napkin, feminine spray, feminine powder, wipes/towelettes, and vaginal douche.

In analyzing the data collected, the team found that African-American women, who are the largest users of vaginal douching products, had significantly higher concentrations of 1,4-dichlorobenzene (DCB) an element with insecticidal and deodorant properties that is used in mothballs.

Compared to people who have never used these products, occasional users (up to once a month) had an 18% higher DCB rate. Women who used douching products (more than twice a month) had a concentration of more than 81%.

Feminine powder – used as an antiperspirant – is largely associated with higher levels of ethylbenzene in the blood. Those who used this powder last month had a 36% higher concentration of this organic compound derived from benzene.

Intimate products  and pregnancy

The researchers revealed the work in an article published on 30 October 2019 in the Journal of Women’s Health. “Some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been associated with acute toxic effects, such as neurological disorders and respiratory symptoms. Prolonged exposure may also cause cancer and adverse effects on the reproductive system. 1,4-dichlorobenzene (DCB) is thought to be, among other things, a potential human carcinogen. It is also thought to cause menstrual disorders, miscarriages and birth defects.

They add: “In view of the concerns about the toxicity of VOCs, it is important to identify the sources of these elements that can be addressed through exposure reduction strategies.

Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the journal and Director of the Institute for Women’s Health at the Commonwealth University of Virginia, explained: “According to the results of this study, female hygiene products that expose vulvovaginal tissues to these harmful volatile organic compounds should be avoided, especially during pregnancy.

Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) spread easily in the atmosphere. These pollutants in the form of gases or vapors are highly present in adhesives and paints, floor coverings, walls or ceilings. Some have a smell, others do not. A link has been established between cancer and some of them, such as benzene, formaldehyde or 1,4-dichlorobenzene.

A high concentration of VOCs can cause the following acute symptoms:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Irritation of the eyes
  • Irritation of the nose
  • Irritation of the throat
  • Headache

Hygiene products associated with presence of chemicals in women’s blood



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