Pollution's Double-Edged Sword on Health

Article published at: Agora London Jun 4, 2024
Pollution's Double-Edged Sword on Health
All Wellbeing

A Conversation on Wellbeing

Have you ever wondered how environmental pollution affects women's health?

The relationship between environmental issues and women’s health is in fact complex and multifaceted. While there’s a growing interest in understanding how environmental pollution affects health, we need to pay more attention to how air pollution specifically impacts women. Some research suggests potential connections between exposure to environmental toxins and various diseases like cancer, reproductive issues, and immune and neurological disorders. However, our understanding of how these toxins affect women's health and how women uniquely respond to them is still limited.

Air Pollution's Unique Impact on Women.

Air pollution, especially, has significant effects on women's health, worsening conditions such as asthma and heart disease, which women experience differently than men. Biological factors like hormonal fluctuations make women more susceptible to certain pollutants. Pregnant women exposed to high pollution levels face increased risks of adverse birth outcomes, which can have long-lasting effects on both mother and child.

More Research Needed.

Investing more in comprehensive research is crucial to better understand how environmental pollution interacts with women's bodies. This includes studying how hormonal changes, pregnancy, and other gender-specific factors influence toxin absorption and health outcomes. It's essential to prioritise research on groups of women who may be disproportionately affected by air pollution, such as those with preexisting health conditions or living in high-pollution areas.

Dioxin Dangers in Sanitary Products.

In recent years, there has been growing concern about exposure to dioxins through the use of tampons and other sanitary products. Sanitary products containing wood pulp or pulp-based products, like rayon, bleached with chlorine, have raised particular alarm. Rayon itself, if absorbed by the skin, can cause side effects such as headaches, nausea, and insomnia, and sometimes trigger allergic reactions. Additionally, rayon production contributes to deforestation, wasting around 70% of the tree in the process.

Considering that a typical woman may use around 11,000 menstrual products from her first period to menopause, the presence of dioxins, plastic, and various chemicals in these products is concerning. This prolonged exposure to chemicals and plastics, combined with the highly absorbent nature of vaginal and vulvar tissues, increases the risk of health deterioration in women.

Various chemicals, including antimicrobial agents, fragrances, and nonstick properties, are found in personal care products and may also be present in menstrual products. Additionally, chemicals introduced during the manufacturing process, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be found in sanitary pads due to their adhesive backing and edging.

The Dual Threat of Menstrual Product Pollution.

However, this issue presents a double-edged sword. Menstrual products containing plastic and other chemicals not only affect women's bodies but also contribute to global pollution. This pollution, in turn, disproportionately impacts women's lives. To address this, we need to consider some alarming figures:

  • Plastic menstrual products generate over 200,000 tons of waste annually, taking hundreds of years to decompose.
  • A year's worth of disposable pads and tampons for one person produces 8.9kg of CO2 emissions, equivalent to charging a mobile phone over 1000 times.
  • Pads are made of up to 90% plastic, which breaks down into microplastics, contributing to ocean pollution.
  • Improper disposal of menstrual waste significantly contributes to plastic pollution, with menstrual products ranking as the fifth-largest contributors to plastic pollution on European coastlines.
  • In the UK alone, 1.3 million plastic applicators are flushed down toilets daily.

Sustainable Alternatives Cut Carbon and Waste.

Switching to sustainable alternatives like period pants or eco-friendly tampons could significantly reduce carbon emissions and plastic waste. If 15 million women and individuals who menstruate in the UK made this switch, we could save around 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

At Agora Health, we support  interdisciplinary research aimed at developing a holistic   understanding of these matters. Our goal is to empower women with clear information, enabling them to make informed choices regarding their health and the environment.

We're excited to offer you a discount on DAME's sustainable and organic period products, allowing you to support both the environment and women's health! Use code Agora20 to receive 20% discount on DAME’s products.

As I conclude, know that you are not alone on this path to better health and wellness. Your journey is unique but together we form a community of strength and support.

Let’s thrive together,

Cristina x