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Potential health hazards of feminine care products




Bolaji Kareem (pseudo name), like many other Nigerian women assume using a range of feminine hygiene products or feminine care products as popularly called is the safest way to keep clean the female genital area.She uses an array of these feminine care products without the least idea of what she invests on.To many women like her, the innocent intention is to keep clean and fresh the vaginal area of the body.

But contrary to this notion, recent concerns over the safety of these feminine care products have been raised.According to an internal medicine doctor, Dr Patrick Ijewere of the Caribbean Health and Nutrition Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, many of these products, ranging from sanitary pads, tampons, feminine wipes and washes, douches and feminine anti itch creams have been discovered to contain carcinogens(cancer causing agents) as part of their ingredient compositions.

Ijewere, in an interview with The Guardian revealed that most ingredient components of these care products have been blacklisted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries like the United States as carcinogenic.He said, with such chemical components, the ideal purpose to keep clean the vaginal area by several women is lost.

He noted that normally, care is associated with something good to the human wellbeing, “but recently in our markets, profit has overtaken sincerity.”Ijewere explained, “Lots of such products on the market either have not been tested thoroughly or the true impact is not understood or concealed. And today we are seeing lots of consequences due to the multiplicity of chemicals in feminine care products.”

The American trained expert identified some of these chemical ingredients in sanitary pads as chlorine, furans, dioxin, rubber, parabens (cosmetic preservatives), plastics phthalates (chemicals for softening plastics), adhesive and chemical fragrance, among others.

For Feminine wipes he stated such hazardous ingredients may include; methylchloroisothiazolinone (cosmetics chemical preservative), methylosithiazolinone (synthetic biocide preservatives), quaternium – 15 (ammonium salt for preservation), paraben, DMDM hydantoin (preservative agent), and unknown fragrance chemical.

He advanced that for douches, harmful ingredients like spermicide and octoxynol – 9(surfactants—cleansing agents,) has been identified and studies have linked regular douching (intra-vaginal cleaning) to bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, low birth weight, preterm birth, ectopic pregnancy , chronic yeast infection and infertility.

Evidently, the American Public Health Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOCG) has specifically recommended against douching because it is both medically unnecessary and associated with adverse health outcomes. ACOCG also frowned on the use of fragranced tampons and powders, to help prevent valve disorder. Ijewere told The Guardian that the above listed chemicals are not directly carcinogenic, but can disrupt hormones that can create an environment for cancer to occur.

He regretted that most of these companies are dishonest because they do not put the list of ingredients on the labeling “and this is rather disturbing.” Their manufacturing practices cannot be vouched for, he added.The wellness advocate elaborated that all these health concerns is because the area of the female genitals is rich with blood vessels, “it has very thin line and its easy for things to cross into the blood stream, so anything applied in that area must be extremely guarded.”

He lamented that about 60 per cent of anything applied in that area would end up in the blood stream and circulated to other organs.The internal medicine consultant added, “the vulva, vaginal and cervix areas are highly vascular, meaning they contain much blood vessels, thin mucous membranes, thus rapidly absorbs anything applied around there, no matter what it is.”

Chlorine, he explained is known scientifically to be used in bleaching process and used when materials are recycled to produce new ones, “but some by-products of this chemical exist in some feminine care products, and that is very disturbing.”

He continued, “once these by- products come into contact with that area of the body, the platform for damage is created.”Women douche because they want to sanitize the area, Ijewere said, but perfumes are chemicals and no matter how sweet they smell their chemical contents end up in the blood stream and eventually in children such women conceive.

“Some of the chemical used in these feminine care products are pseudo estrogens or hormone disrupters; they upset normal hormone balance, which means the estrogens can affect the balance of those hormones in the woman’s body,” he expressed.The body, he noted depends on hormones for several functions, including the reproductive system, hence “the introduction of chemicals through these feminine care products into the vaginal area causes imbalance to these hormones and that calls for problems.”

He pointed out that these problems can show up as infertility, recurrent discharges, unusual or heavy menses, infertility, ovarian cyst worst case scenario cancer or fibroids or foundation causes of fibroids, as well as affect their psychological well being since estrogens imbalance affects female mood and level of irritability. “The ripple effect of hormonal disrupters is far and much,” he noted.

Ijewere expressed his disappointment, saying unlike in many developed countries where punitive laws are strict, Nigeria is like a dumping site for all sort. He cited that in the United States (US), laws have been arranged, such that, labeling of feminine care products is left up to the manufacturer or loosely done because of how they classify them, so products from there to cannot be replied on either.

Answering on what women should look out for on their choices of feminine care products, he advised the female folks to read labels of products before purchase, “if the following are seen, reconsider; no ingredients list, viscose, ( semi-synthetic fiber), cellulose, synthetic plastic, super gel absorbent among other.”

Synthetic and plastic, he noted also restrict the free flow of air in that area and can trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting the growth of yeast and bacterial in the vaginal area. He recommended as follows for healthier choices; “chlorine, wood pulp fluff and synthetic free products, organic and anion, none Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), and 100 per cent cotton.

Ijewere, furthermore, appealed to government to make sure people at the helm of affairs in the country’s regulatory outfits are experienced and grounded in contemporary science knowledge of these products.“Health is by choice, there is a price for staying well and healthy,” Ijewere said.

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