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Under Pressure, Feminine Product Makers Disclose Ingredients

Women protest the chemical exposure in feminine care products outside Procter & Gamble’s headquarters in Cincennati.

11.11.2015 |

By: Jessica Ebelhar/The New York Times

A small group of women from Womens Voices demonstrate the use of chemicals in the feminine care products during the annual shareholder meeting of Procter & Gamble. This appeared in an article posted by the New York Times in October.

The demonstration on the 13th of October outside the Procter & Gamble headquarters lead to a meeting. This is due to both the demonstration and a petition signed by 35,000 people demaning to disclose feminine care ingredients and remove certain chemicals. The increased pressure to respond to public was also evident online via social media. The Womens Voices group spread a spoof video as a part of their campaign that reached 60,000 views online.

This action resulted in P. & G. and a rival company Kimberly-Clark posting online ingredients in their feminine hygiene products. While they do post the ingredients on their tampon packages, the do not include this information on their pads packages. This needs mending according to Womens voices spokesperson Ms. Switalski who has been pressuring for a meeting with the companies: “We had been trying to get a meeting with the company for a couple of years and they hadn’t been responding to our requests,” Ms. Switalski said. “If we aren’t able to get a dialogue, then we have to use some of these public pressure tactics to get these meetings to take place.”

P.&.G. and Kimberly-Clark are according to to data from Euromonitor, a market research firm, together account for the largest share of the more than $3 billion worth of tampons, panty liners and feminine wipes sold in North America in 2014. They claim that their products are safe and scientifically tested before they reach the stores. Dr. Tierno however begs to differ. Dr. Philip M. Tierno, a professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine, argues that cotton tampons are preferable to those that use viscose rayon in the core. “Rayon” and “rayon fibers” are listed among the ingredients in some products on P.&G. and Kimberly-Clark’s websites.

What disturbs ms. Switalski is the fragrences used in the products which can be particularly problematic for some consumers. Many feminine care products companies only list ‘fragrence’ as an ingredient instead of listing the dozens of undislosed chemicals that might fall under the umbrella term ‘fragrences’. Women’s Voices for the Earth says it found chemicals including styrene and chloroform in several of P.&G.’s feminine napkins.

The new disclosures from Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark are a step in the right direction, and show that the concerns expressed by millions of women are being heard. This is however only the beginning, this still needs more disclosure.