Dia Mirza, Goodwill ambassador for UNEP, has been vocal about the damaging effects of sanitary napkins on the environment for years. Now, she is raising her worries about a recent report by the NGO Toxics Link titled "Menstrual Waste 2022."
According to the analysis, six commercially available inorganic sanitary pads and four organic sanitary pads both included phthalates and volatile organic chemicals.
Alarming amounts of chemicals linked with heart disorders, diabetes, and cancer, have been found in sanitary napkins that millions of women buy and use, and Dia says, "This is one of the reasons I feel impelled today to appeal to the Prime Minister of India to put in place stringent regulations and systems to evaluate the health and safety quotient of sanitary napkins before making them accessible to everyone."
Dia is deeply distressed by the study and adds, "Five years ago, I discovered that most regularly used sanitary napkins are made with plastics which are toxic not just to human health but also for the environment. This is why, I started seeking out alternatives and made a switch but at a macro level nothing has changed. All the brands that are in the mainstream market to date are carrying the kind of toxins that no woman should be exposed to.
"Without any stringent regulations, such products will continue to be churned out. There urgently needs to be a system in place that raises red flags when toxins/chemicals are found in the compositions of sanitary pads. There's no regulation at the manufacturing level in India unlike in European countries. We must insist, at least now, to call out unsafe products and regulate their quality."
It is a wonder why to date, no regulations have been formulated. As someone who depends on these products for basic health and hygiene herself, Dia asks, "Why are we not holding big multinational companies accountable for making millions of dollars at the expense of Indian women's health? We have been propagating the idea that sanitary napkins are a healthier and more hygienic option for menstruating women than cloth pads when in fact they are not, going by the latest report."
According to Dia, it is the responsibility of regulatory bodies and the government to make sure that dangerous products do not end up in the hands of innocent women. She also believes that the government must make sure that dishonest businesses do not get away with harmful business methods. The government and major corporations need to be seriously questioned by civil society about why women's health is being neglected in this way and put at such risk.
"The right to health is enshrined in our Constitution and it baffles me why fundamental questions about women's health have not been asked before and why we are even having this conversation today. It baffles me that we have been supplying not just menstrual pads but dye poison to millions of Indian women. It is deeply concerning and we can surely do better because now we know better," Dia concludes. (SJ/IANS)