Sanitary napkins, New age Pollutant
Even though number of women who use hygienic means to manage menstruation in India is pegged at just 12-15%, this has already opened up a new challenge….How to handle the staggering amount of Sanitary waste.
Sanitary waste disposal has become an increasing problem in India. The plastic used in disposable sanitary napkins are not bio-degradable and lead to health and environmental hazards.
The total amount of menstrual hygiene waste that is generated per month nationwide comes to around 9000 tons…..
What’s inside Sanitary Pad?
Have you ever checked what’s in your pads. Even if you check you won’t find ingredients in sanitary pad as manufacturers are not required to disclose ingredients because feminine hygiene products are considered medical devices.
Sanitary pads are mostly plastic and are made of different layers. The thin top layer on napkins, known as the dri-weave top sheet, is made of polypropylene (a plastic polymer). The padding is mostly wood pulp mixed with super absorbent polymers and the leak-proof layer is made from an impermeable polyethylene. Super absorbent polymer is the magic ingredient that helps to hold water up to 30 times its weight.
Too much plastic means, sanitary pads too carry health hazards. Would like to enlist few….
- Some chemicals present in plastic like BPA and BPS can complicate embryonic development
- The cellulose present in pads can cause cervical cancer
- Rayon which is used to increase the absorbing capacity of pads, contains dioxin. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen.
- Deodorants used in pads can cause infertility and birth defects
What happens to all those soiled napkins ?
Most women wrap sanitary pads in plastic or paper and throw it along with domestic garbage. The garbage collectors dump it all together and later segregate it. Waste pickers separate out soiled napkins by hand, exposing themselves to infection causing microbes like E.Coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause typhoid, hepatitis and tetanus. These sanitary napkins then move to landfills, located at city outskirts, where they wait for their turn to get decomposed….600-800 Years .
Incineration is another option adopted. Incineration of menstrual waste is being promoted by the Indian government. But then according to WHO all health-related waste should be incinerated only at temperatures over 800 degrees, because if plastic polymer products, such as disposable pads, are burned at lower temperatures they typically release poisonous gases including dioxins and furans, which are highly toxic even in trace quantities. Maintaining this kind of temperature posts practical difficulty and as of now there are no provisions to monitor the emissions from these incinerators.
Way forward….How can we reduce ‘Menstrual Pollution’
Lesser the pollutant, lesser the trouble.
The only way to reduce this menace is by switching to sanitary napkins made with biodegradable materials or even switching to menstrual cups.
These are naturally occurring sea sponge that are used in the vagina to absorb the flow, very much like a tampon. They’re comfortable to use, non-irritating and environmental friendly They are moistened before inserting into the vagina. They can be washed and reused, and can be boiled or sterilized if desired. They offer a cheap reusable option.
Though menstrual cups were in market way back from 1930’s, they have now made big bang comeback because of its eco-friendly nature. It is small, flexible cup made of silicone or latex rubber. The menstrual cup collects the blood straight in it. It can be easily emptied into the toilet, rinsed and re-inserted. Though first purchase would be slightly expensive, same cup can be used for around 5 years, which makes it economical. Unlike pads and tampons, cups present no risk or health hazards. Menstrual cups have made collection of menstrual blood easier for stem cell extraction.
Reusable Cloth Pads
Next best option is to opt for reusable sanitary napkin made from cloth. Its design is very much similar to disposable napkins, and they provide absorbency by using many layers of cotton. They are quite easy to maintain and can even be washed in a washing machine after soaking and removing all the menstrual discharge.
Full Cycle’ Kit from EcoFemme provides all you need for full monthly cycle. Includes: 2 Pantyliners, 2 Day pads, 2 Day Pad Plus pads, 1 Night pad, 1 Canvas Travel Pouch, care instructions/tips and menstrual cycle tracking chart/ With leakproof layer.
- Sathi is a biodegradable sanitary pad made from banana fibre for the Indian market. The pad is soft and does not cause any irritation to the skin since there is no ‘absorbent’ plastic coating on them or the cocktail of chemicals as are found in other commercial pads.
- Soukyam, is another brand of organic napkins. They make it using wood pulp and gel cotton and is totally environmental friendly. Kanika, a Kerala-based woman’s organisation is behind this innovation.
- Anandi Eco Sanitary Napkin are completely organic. They are made from agri-wastes such as banana fiber, bagasse, bamboo and water hyacinth. These pads cost just Rs. 2 per napkin. These napkins are UV rays sterilized and adhere to BIS standards for sanitary napkins.
Work towards a pollutant free Earth…..Do your bit….Opt for Healthy, Eco-Friendly Period