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Greener Periods: A need to switch to eco-friendly sanitary products

We, as a society, know that ecosystem degradation is a global phenomenon, its effect exponentially growing with time. The UN has set countless global biodiversity targets and numerous summits have been held regarding the ever-deteriorating environment. However, action is rarely taken and restoring nature to its former glory is the need of the hour. The gap between baseless rhetoric and reality must not reach a stage where it’s too late. Hence, there is an urgent need for each one of us to step up and help the cause in any way we can. Through this article, I wish to highlight some of the shortcomings of mass-produced disposable pads while also providing information on eco-friendly alternatives.

Pads: A Cornucopia of Chemicals

  • Disposable sanitary pads have a high amount of non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials like glue and petrochemicals. An average woman is said to use more than 10,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime and an average pack of sanitary pads can have thirty-six grams of plastic in it. Now that’s a lot of plastic! Plastic is a slow decomposer, and it is estimated that a sanitary pad takes 500 to 800 years to decompose. This means that not a single pad since the first one in use has decomposed yet!

  • Pads carry BPA (Bisphenol A) which has been labelled as carcinogenic. Studies have found that exposure to low doses of BPA has been linked to an increased possibility of developing breast and prostate cancer. To prevent the smell of menstrual blood, manufacturers have equipped sanitary napkins with deodorants and fragrances which are also harmful to the reproductive system.

  • Cotton is an essential ingredient in the production of tampons. Sounds sustainable! It’s not plastic at least! On the contrary, conventional cotton plantations pose one of the biggest risks to the ecosystems they are grown in. Commercial cotton’s most prominent environmental impacts result from the use of agrochemicals (especially pesticides), the consumption of water, and the conversion of habitat to agricultural use. This has had severe impacts on major ecosystems around the world.

What are the Sustainable Alternatives?

  • Indian manufacturers like Heyday, Saathi, Carmesi and Anandi put an emphasis on producing biodegradable pads. Heyday incorporates bamboo and corn pulp as the main ingredients in their production process, and they’ve gone as far as to grow these plants in chemical-free soil.

  • Reusable pads are another alternative. Foundations like SAFA India and KGNMT have been guiding people on how to make cloth pads at the comfort of their home. However, there have been concerns about the hygienic consequences faced by the usage of reusable pads. Safepad has tackled this issue by producing pads with an antimicrobial layer for hygienic purposes.

  • Menstrual cups are an extremely cheap and reusable alternative to pads and tampons. The cup, typically made of flexible, rubber or silicone, sits in the vagina and captures blood during the period. Silicone, being a chemically inert material poses little to no risk to the body and the environment. Menstrual cups have been studied to have less than 1.5% of the environmental impact posed by disposables at 10% of the cost. You can purchase these one-time investments from brands like Gaaia, Sirona and Safecup.

There is an urgent need for each one of us to step up and assist in the fight against environmental degradation in any way we can. So let us join together in giving these brands more publicity, and further promote the idea of having greener periods!

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