Sanitary Pads! They are a matter of fascination for men as they keep wondering how these things work. And that question – “how do women put them on?” is one of the most elusive questions for at least unmarried men. For women however, sanitary pads come with a different set of questions. Questions like, ‘are they safe”, “do they cause cancer”, “do they cause infections”, “how long should a girl use a single pad”, etc. have created concerns for millions and millions of women around the world.
While all of us already know that Sanitary Pads are designed to maintain menstrual hygiene, what most of us definitely don’t know is that these pads are really not as hygienic as they claim to be. So, what’s wrong with these pads? Today, we are going to learn some jaw dropping and of course, shocking sanitary pads facts. If you are reading this and you are a woman, take it seriously. If you are a man and you are reading this, make sure that you let you women you care for know about these facts. So, let’s get started!
Sanitary Pads Facts: 1-5 (History of Sanitary Pads)
1. Sanitary pads aren’t a new thing on market. As a matter of fact, they have always been around for thousands of years. Guess what? Women have always bled during menstrual periods and they have always used something or the other to control their menstrual blood flow and keep their secret place clean. However, the oldest recorded history of sanitary pads comes from 4th century CE.
2. Did you ever hear the name “Hypatia”? Hypatia was the first female Greek Mathematician. The story goes that there used to be a man who was bewitched by her and so great was his admiration for Hypatia that it eventually frustrated Hypatia. So, in order to discourage the man, that lady mathematician took her menstrual rag (of course the bloody one) and threw it on him. What happened next? We don’t really know.
3. That’s pretty much the ancient history of sanitary pads that we have at our disposal. However, what we know for sure from past that the menstrual pads that women used in the past contained various types of fabric such as cotton, cloth, wool, grass and even animal skin!
4. Fast forward to modern times, disposable sanitary pads has a somewhat funny story. Steps in Benjamin Franklin – yes, that guy who was one of the Founding Fathers of United States of America. He actually came up with the invention of disposable pads, which were designed for caring for the wounds of soldiers who were hit by buckshot.
5. Yes, those pads later became disposable sanitary pads or sanitary napkins that women widely used today. With the new found purpose, the pads were named as menstrual pads.
Sanitary Pads Facts: 6-10 (History of Sanitary Pads)
6. Then stepped in Johnson & Johnson – yes the company from USA. In 1896, they made the first commercial sanitary pad. Essentially they were into bandage production but since they had the knowledge of how bandages worked, they had a pretty good idea of how to stop menstrual blood. So, they succeeded in providing the first commercial sanitary pads.
7. It was not until 1980 that the sanitary pad manufacturers decided to change the material they have been using for manufacturing the pads. The reason was simple! The material they used were not good absorbents and hence, leakage was a serious problem. Leakage meant stains. That’s not something women wanted.
8. About the shape of the sanitary pads, that too has an interesting story. Initially, these pads were designed to have extensions on the forward and on the backward. These extensions were meant to go into the waist belt to keep the pads in place.
9. Later on, adhesive strips came in. They were at the bottom of the pads. The adhesive strip was designed to attach the pad to the panty saddle and keep secured in place. This new design got rid of the belted design by mid 1980s.
10. Adhesive strips however increased the thickness of the pads and then came the wings. These wings also have adhesive covering but since they are a part of the pad and not a separate strip, they tend to reduce the thickness of the pads. These wings that protrude out from the sides are folded back and stick on the underneath of panty saddle, holding the pad in place.
Sanitary Pads Facts: 11-15 (Health Concerns of Sanitary Pads)
11. The absorbent material of most of the modern day pads from brands like Whisper, Stayfree etc. are made of petroleum-derived superabsorbent gels such as polyacrylate and Sphagnum.
12. Needless to say, there are several health concerns when it comes to using modern day sanitary pads. There are various synthetic materials such as plastics, surfactants, polyacrylates, polypropylene, recycled paper, chlorine-bleached wood pulp etc.
13. These synthetic material block the vaginal area and create a microclimate that humid. This happens because the wetness is trapped inside the sanitary pads. On top of that, even temperature is trapped. These conditions are perfect breeding grounds for fungi and germs. Absence of proper aeration and germ build up is one of the primary reasons for various infections in women.
14. Most of the modern day sanitary pads do not use cotton at all. Even if they are using cotton, here is one thing you need to know – pure cotton isn’t really that ultra white as you think of it. The problem is that women have a tendency to think that if something that they are using down there isn’t ultra white, it isn’t hygienic. To get over this problem, sanitary pad producers use dioxin – a chemical – for bleaching the pads (containing cotton or anything else).
15. In case you didn’t know, dioxin is dangerous. It can not only lead to skin darkening in the secret area but can also lead to altered liver function. Did you even know that dioxin has been tagged as an environmental pollutant?
Sanitary Pads Facts: 16-20 (Health Concerns of Sanitary Pads)
16. Pads that contain cotton cannot be considered safe either. Why? Do you know that cotton is a crop and that it must be sprayed with herbicides and pesticides for protection? Continued used for cotton pads can lead to absorption of those harmful chemicals into the bloodstream.
17. What happens when herbicides and pesticides make their way into the bloodstream? Infertility and thyroid malfunction are two very common problems but there are numerous other health problems as well.
18. Talking of dioxin, it is known for causing ovarian cancer. Watch out girls! That’s not something you should take lightly.
19. In case you happen to be a great fan of tampons, here is something you should really know about them. They have a really smooth finish. Do you know what gives them smooth finish? That’s nothing other than plasticizers. The technical name is Phthalates. These plasticizers have earned some really bad reputation for causing multiple organ damage.
20. Dioxin is also known for causing abnormal growth of tissues in various reproductive organs. This is not something to be taken lightly.
Sanitary Pads Facts: 21-25 (Health Concerns of Sanitary Pads)
21. We said earlier in the facts list that there are several synthetic materials in sanitary pads. Now here is something really surprising. They contain materials like BPA or Bisphenol A and BPS or Bisphenol S. They are known for complicating embryonic development. What does that mean? The baby may have serious problems during embryonic development stage inside your stomach!
22. Suddenly we say the rise of deodorized sanitary pads. They claimed to kill the pungent smell of the menstrual blood. That sounds good, right? Well, no matter how good they sound, they aren’t really that good. Well, these deodorizers are nothing but chemicals that can really fool around with embryonic development stage of the baby.
23. On top of that, these deodorizers can actually cause an awful lot of irritation and yes, they can lead to yeast infection too!
24. Here is a stunner! When a single sanitary pad is used for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to excessive growth of staphylococcus aureus bacteria inside the vagina. This excessive growth of the bacteria leads to what is known as Toxic Shock Syndrome with diarrhea, fever, dizziness etc. as classic syndromes. In extreme cases, Toxic Shock Syndrome can lead to death. Though not very common, it occurs.
25. In extreme cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome, the staphylococcus aureus bacteria releases toxins in high quantities. This toxin leads to a sudden blood pressure drop. In extreme cases, such drop in blood pressure leads to reduced blood supply in brain and can lead to death.
Bonus Fact: Modern sanitary pads are not biodegradable at all. So, they will simply not rot and degrade. Think of the environmental consequence when billions of these used non-recyclable pads are disposed off every year. Just to give you a quick picture: one typical sanitary pad is equivalent to 4 plastic bags of average size. That’s quite a lot isn’t it? Also, in USA alone, 12 million sanitary pads and 7 million tampons are disposed annually. Now combine the whole world’s disposal. Do you get the grim picture?