Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), a longtime women’s health advocate, has introduced “The Robin Danielson Act” (H.R. 5181), legislation that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research and determine the extent to which the presence of dioxin, synthetic fibers, and other tampon additives pose any health risks to women. The bill also asks the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to collect and report information on Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a rare and potentially life-threatening bacterial illness which research has associated with tampon use in women. The bill is named for a woman who died from the illness.
“American women deserve the ability to make educated decisions about a product that could potentially endanger their health and their lives,” said Rep. Maloney. “Right now, 73 million American women use tampons, yet there is no research that unequivocally declares them safe. Women’s health research has been put on the backburner for far too long. It’s time federal researchers looked into this common consumer product and helped make TSS a disease of the past.”
The EPA has released reports identifying dioxin as a “probable cancer-causing agent.” Tampons currently sold in the United States are composed of rayon, cotton, or a combination of both. Rayon is produced from bleached wood pulp, and the chlorine bleaching of pulp produces a by-product of dioxin. While chlorine-free bleaching processes are available, most wood pulp manufacturers only use elemental-chlorine free bleaching processes which still use chlorine dioxide as a bleaching agent, and therefore still produce dioxin. The EPA reports that even 100 percent cotton tampons and completely chlorine-free tampons have trace amounts of dioxin because decades of pollution have caused an infiltration of dioxin in the air, water, and ground. Dioxin can still find its way into cotton and wood pulp products – and therefore tampons – because of this pollution. Currently, the reporting of TSS to the CDC is both optional and uneven. In fact, the number of TSS cases and deaths has not been reported since 2003.
Oh bleeding. Here you are again with your cramps and your shedding of uterine lining that makes me want to beat the shit out of whoever created tampon advertising. It’s easy to have negative feelings towards your period, especially as it seems that is the common theme aimed at those who bleed (fyi:fuck y’all). But the shame thing is really wearing thin and I’m tired of the same old conversations and secrecy around the period which is one of the reasons I decided to go public with my great search for the perfect period product that is not contributing to mass waste and gets the job done. This week, I’m covering Luna Pads, the washable cloth menstrual pad.
Pads and I have a troubled relationship. I don’t doubt their effectiveness, nor their fanbase, but I have personally always hated them. I believe it stems back to the first time I ever got my period in what was a grand display of both crowning womanhood and humiliation. Instead of words of encouragement or even empathy, I received a lecture from a male principal about how it really wasn’t his problem, but he recommended keeping my legs closed because I was able to get pregnant now. I was overjoyed by this thoughtful gesture, which only added on to the whole shame as a woman bleeding theme, if you can imagine. Later, a well-meaning counselor gave me some more gentle advice other than, “Don’t fuck up some boy’s life by getting pregnant, you dumb slut,” and gifted me with my very first menstrual product, an industrial-sized pad that was something similar to this:
I resented it immediately: its scratchiness, its sterility, its lack of comfort, and the blood that was just sitting there. It was a constant reminder me of bleeding, therefore constantly reminding me that I was doing something bad( like being a woman). From that day forward, everything that I had internalized about bleeding, womanhood, and shame was projected onto the unsuspecting pad. I hated the pad. How dare the pad even exist? The pad was just mocking me, mocking everyone who was on their period.
Maybe. Either way, I’ve always stayed away from pads, even on my light days, which is why I decided to forgo the Diva Cup this month and instead face my inner period demons head on and give the Luna Pad a try.
First off, the Luna Pads are adorable. They come with flowery cloth options, as well as different absorbencies for different days. The Luna Pad has two parts: the colorful pad base itself, and the liner which catches all the good stuff. Both the pad and the liner are 100% cotton flannel, with a layer of ultra thin nylon, and wings that fasten around your underwear by a silver-plated brass single snap fastening (nickel free!). For this go-around, I used the Maxi pad and two separate liners on my second day, which is my heaviest. The site includes a full on how to for you section on making the best choice for your needs, as well as a super simple how to video on using your Luna Pad:
The Luna Pad is designed to get you through one whole day of your normal cycle, changing the liner as needed. Like any menstrual product, the more frequently you change it, the less likely it is to spill over and cause a bit of a situation.
So how did it fare? The Luna Pad wasn’t nearly as distracting as a plastic pad and didn’t leave me with that crunchy, dried blood that comes with the territory. In fact, it was akin to having a nice little blanket on my precious bits, one that left me thinking, Christ, who in the hell ever thought that marketing disposable plastic pads to the masses was a good idea? (Answer: dudes). I experienced very little spillage until my pad was ripe for the picking and even then it wasn’t the careening mess it has been with pads (though this varies). Since the pad is 100% cotton, it breathes, unlike plastic ones, causing less irritation and lowering the risk of rashes if you are prone.
The plus side? While more expensive than a box of pads, the Luna Pad is not terribly out of financial grasp. A pad and liner kit can run anywhere from 14.99 to 24.99, depending on absorbency. Pad liners run from 5.99 to 12.99 for two. Still, it can be a lot to throw down all at once if you want to strictly use just the Luna Pad, even though it’s a great long-term investment. The pads have a five-year lifespan with proper care, making it super cheap in the long run, and you aren’t dumping your gross-ass pads into a toxic waste site somewhere. Also, the founders of Luna Pad seem like real awesome babes who I personally would like to go have drinks with. Oh, and it’s a smart and friendly alternative to plastic pads that are draconian torture devices bent on destroying the world and women’s comfort. Plus, the Luna Pads story is kind of amazing.
Downside? I can only speak personally here by saying that I’m still not a pad convert. While the Luna Pad is far superior in comfort than any plastic pad of death I have ever used, I still have feelings about wearing something in my underwear as opposed to having something inside me, though that’s something that could change over time. I see myself wearing these more at night than in the daytime. If you sport a full-on bush, the Luna Pad may not be the best alternative, though that again is a case-by-case basis. My biggest concern was that I was at work when I first needed to change the liner on my pad and since I wasn’t in the comfort of my own home where I could just wash it in the sink or even throw it in the wash, I had to throw my liner in a plastic baggy and wait until I got home to wash it.
Another plus side is that you can make your own reusable menstrual pads with the simple help of a sewing machine and some youtube guidance.
So tune into next month, when I finally take the plunge I promised and try the much talked about Diva Cup. Until then, my lovies, happy bleeding y’all.