It’s really heartening to see that menstruation is no longer a subject spoken in hushed tones. People have finally realised that there’s no shame in period talk. Many myths have been busted and more girls are able to talk about their period openly. This is a great sign and will surely lead to better menstrual hygiene practices leading to better health in women!
The Movie Padman has generated a lot of buzz around this subject and the movie makers are in full promotion mode. Celebrities have been encouraged to take the sanitary pad challenge where they post a picture of themselves with a sanitary pad. They in turn tag more celebrities to do the same and the cycle continues. Yes! It’s refreshing to see sanitary napkins in the hand of our reel heroes instead of alcohol, cigarettes, guns, and swords but ironically they aren’t doing us a service by endorsing sanitary napkins. It may sound like we are discouraging a good thing but do hear us out.
Among all the celebrities who took the Padman Challenge, the one that struck the most was Aamir Khan’s. Why? Aamir made an excellent program about waste management on his revolutionary show Satyamev Jayate! It was such a well-made episode that most people who watched it wanted to get up and do something immediately about the way waste is handled in our country. It brought out the ugly side of what we throw as trash and the impact it has on our surroundings. The pathetic state of municipal workers who handle our trash shocked many people.
Our dilemma now is, how can a person who apparently knows so much about the waste woes of our country endorse a sanitary napkin? You must be thinking, why not? What’s wrong with sanitary napkins? Millions of women around the world use it every day, and wouldn’t life come to a standstill without them?
First, let’s get our facts right about Sanitary napkins.
● All pads are made of plastic, some chemicals that are made of plastic like BPA and BPS can complicate embryonic development in women who have used sanitary napkins extensively. The fiber in the absorbent pads can cause cervical cancer. The dioxins present in them have been linked to ovarian cancer.
● These pads contain pesticides and herbicides. Cotton used in these pads are sprayed with pesticides which will be absorbed by the skin. Furan which is a dangerous chemical is present in cotton used in these pads. Herbicides and pesticides are linked to thyroid malfunction, infertility, and other health problems.
● The white and clean cotton present in the pads are a result of bleaching of cotton. Dioxins which are used to bleach the cotton causes skin darkening and altered liver function.
● Sanitary napkins contain deodorants to keep the smell of blood at bay. These chemicals hamper embryonic development and the scented pads cause severe irritation and yeast infections.
● Pads are made of synthetic fibres which keeps the area wet and humid encouraging bacterial growth. This is the leading cause of yeast infections leading to irritation and itchiness during menstruation.
When did something a natural life-giving phenomenon like menstruation turn into a nightmare? The answer is staring at us. When sanitary napkins came in first, it was thought to be a boon to women. The side effects of using these can no longer be ignored. Sanitary napkins not only pose huge health risks to women’s health, they are a major hazard to our environment. In the absence of stringent pollution regulations in our country, these sanitary napkins are the cause for many hazardous discharges.
Sanitary waste comes under the category of reject waste along with diapers and other medical waste. Ideally, these napkins have to be incinerated at a temperature of 800-degree centigrade to completely destroy all hazardous materials present in them. When they are burnt at temperatures lower than that, the fumes emit dangerous dioxins and furans which are the most toxic substances known to us. They are proven to be carcinogenic and linked to various health problems including reproductive health and hampering development in children. These dioxins are linked to autoimmune diseases. Imagine thousands of incinerators spewing poison into the air every day. Governments are encouraging incinerators to be installed in all schools and waste management centers without any research. There is nobody to regulate these incinerators let alone check if they are burning at 800 degrees. Sadly we haven't even achieved basic segregation in our country! These napkins mostly end up in drains and landfills. Many of them are disposed off in empty lands. The plastics and the toxins present in these pads ruin the land, drains are constantly choked by these pads, many of them are eaten by cows, water bodies are being severely polluted by these pads.
When all this information is proven beyond a doubt, why are these celebrities endorsing a product like this, is our question? To give a simple analogy, promoting a sanitary napkin is like promoting a cigarette! It does sound dramatic we know, but people all over the world are waking up to the ill effects of sanitary napkins, tampons, and diapers. What is the alternative You may ask? There are hundreds of eco-friendly options to manage menstruation. Traditional methods which were used by the previous generations before the advent of sanitary napkins have been revived to suit the current needs and many amazing products are available in the market. Menstrual cups have emerged as a leading product in this sector. Aesthetically designed cloth pads and period panties are very popular among many sustainable products. Our country has just woken up to the hazardous sanitary pads now, most women still use traditional ways to manage their period but promotions like these will push them to ditch the safe traditional methods and adopt these hazardous means. There is no doubt that more awareness has to be created in this sector. Many women are unaware of hygienic practices to manage their menstruation and Sanitary napkins are surely NOT the answer to these issues. It’s high time that the government regulates pollution guidelines for this sector stringently and promote sustainable products for the better health of the women of our country as well as our environment!