Periods have become a problem.
every month, those of us with periods expose our bodies to toxic chemicals, and every month we bin or flush enough plastic to make you see red, all thanks to the unhealthy disposable menstrual products we're sold.
In the UK, every woman uses an average of over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in her reproductive lifetime. Tampons, pads and panty liners generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year, and they all contain plastic - in fact, pads are around 90% plastic - which ends up in landfill or, even worse, in seas and rivers. In 2010, a UK beach clean found an average of 23 sanitary pads and 9 tampon applicators per kilometre of British coastline. Non-organic sanitary products are made from cotton that was sprayed with chemical pesticides, which destroy biodiversity and cause potentially lethal pesticide poisoning in cotton workers.
Conventional disposable menstrual products are bleached white, and this process creates the chemical dioxin, which is linked to immune system suppression, reproductive issues and cancer. Tampons can leave microscopic fibres in vaginal tissue, causing tiny cuts and creating a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which can be fatal. The absorbency of tampons also causes less serious but very unpleasant problems, upsetting the natural pH balance of the vagina and drying it out, which leads to discomfort, itching, rashes and infections.
WEN supports the use of healthier and more sustainable alternatives to conventional sanitary products, from reusable menstrual cups to organic cotton tampons. We educate and inform people about menstrual health, and have successfully campaigned to change the way conventional products are made and sold in the UK. Viva la red revolution!
We all want to take care of our health, but often we lack the knowledge to make informed decisions, especially when it comes to our menstrual health. WEN runs workshops on environmentally friendly and healthy alternatives to conventional sanitary protection. We educate people on the health implications of certain menstrual products, and even teach people to make DIY reusable menstrual pads.
In particular we like to give these workshops in schools. Did you know that Tampax (owned by Proctor & Gamble) and Lilets give free puberty workshops in schools? We think it's pretty fishy that corporations that profit from disposable sanitary protection is in charge of educating young women about their menstrual health. Our workshops provide honest, unbiased information about menstrual health, providing young women with the knowledge and confidence they need to make the best decision for their health and for the planet. Find out more about our workshops here.
tampon safety campaign
One of our very first campaigns focused on demanding changes to the way tampons are produced and sold. We campaigned to raise awareness about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and demanded that industry be more responsible regarding the health impacts of their products. In response to our pressure, it became a legal requirement for all tampons sold in the UK to carry a warning about TSS on the packaging. In 1993, we managed to make the required wording of the TSS warning stronger and clearer, making sure women could be in no doubt about the health risks associated with tampon use.
sanitary protection disposal campaign
The ultimate goal for menstrual health is for all women to use reusable menstrual products (like menstrual cups or reusable pads) but WEN believes in starting where people are and working with their needs and desires, not against them. So in the early 1990s WEN started the Sanitary Protection Disposal Campaign, which worked towards safer disposal of single-use sanitary products. WEN spearheaded the Bag It & Bin It steering group and campaign, which aimed to stop tampons and other sanitary waste ending up in UK seas and rivers. The campaign was supported by diverse groups across the UK, including the UK water industry, environmental organisations, government agencies and sanitary protection manufacturers. The campaign logo - which encouraged consumers to 'bag and bin' their sanitary waste instead of flushing it down the toilet - was featured on the packaging of major sanitary protection brands.