Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Posts Tagged ‘dioxin’

Scrutinizing Tampons


Several weeks ago, we answered a sexual health question on our Consensual Text blog: a college-age woman had inquired about the risks of scented tampons.

This prompted a bumpy ride on the web that included all shades of scary:  tampon processing and manufacturing are rumored to include everything from dioxin to asbestos.  Much of this information is false or unproven, but Estronaut summed up the main concerns:

"Most tampons are made of rayon. Rayon is made of cellulose and fibers of wood.  The processing includes chlorine bleaching, which is known to produce dioxin.  The makers say they wash it all away.  Critics say they don't."

There is some suspicion that organochlorines, like dioxin, mimic sex hormones, therefore causing sex-related health issues, cancer and decreased fertility. A tampon serves as an immediate delivery system to your reproductive organs, as vaginal walls easily absorb substances.

While there is an immense amount of research being done, many questions remain unanswered. Until there is conclusive data, it may be wise to minimize exposure to unnecessary contaminants, especially with many alternatives available. As we mentioned in a previous post, the Diva Cup is a viable option, as are tampons manufactured by Seventh Generation and other companies.

Seventh Generation is also encouraging good reproductive health by donating $1 per sign up at Let's Talk Period to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund today.  Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women.

Something that is actually inserted into your body, probably deserves the highest level scrutiny.

Posted by on September 1st, 2009 1 Comment

Go to the Head of the Class With Smart School Supplies

Aaahhh…September is right around the corner.  September signals summer slowly winding to an end, and for many adults, signals a renewed sense of purpose.  I think many of us “grown-ups” regard September as a kind of “New Year” as we are so used to associating this month with the start of a new school year.  So, in the spirit of my pseudo holiday, I have decided to take on a September New Year’s Resolution - I hereby resolve to send my sons back to school with PVC-free school supplies.


PVC, polyvinyl chloride, has been notoriously deemed the “poison plastic” for good reason.  Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives used to soften or stabilize it. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins. One could argue that no other plastic contributes to the release of as many reproductive health toxicants than PVC.  PVC’s lifecycle is one of the largest sources of dioxins in our environment.  Exposure to dioxin has been linked with birth defects, decreased fertility, inability to carry pregnancies to term, lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, and decreased testis size.  Furthermore, several studies have detected measureable amounts of dioxin in women's breastmilk.

Additionally, PVC is responsible for the consumption of over 90% of all phthalates worldwide.  Phthalates must be added to PVC in large quantities – and can make up to 60% of the final product by weight.  Over 5 million tons of phthalates are used in vinyl every year, and more than 80 million tons of phthalates are estimated to be contained in the stock of PVC products now in use in buildings and other applications.  Exposure to phthalates has been linked to reproductive problems including shorter pregnancy duration, premature breast development in females and sperm damage and impaired reproductive development in males.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Yes, PVC is bad, but what on earth does PVC have to do with school supplies?”  Parents across the country are getting ready to stock up on binders and lunchboxes, and while it’s easy to know the healthiest foods to pack in those lunchboxes, many parents are not aware of the toxic plastic used to make them.  In fact, the average child’s character-themed backpack is filled with supplies and materials made from toxic PVC. Lunchboxes, binders, vinyl backpacks, and even art supplies are frequently made out of PVC.  (more…)

Posted by on August 5th, 2009 1 Comment

Red & Green

Submitted by our intern Julia...


Red and green don’t have to clash. In fact, they can be the recipe for an environmentally responsible period!

With many feminine products utilizing dioxins, bleach, and creating post-consumer waste (wrappers & applicators), perhaps it is time to try something new?  The Diva Cup, a concept the website claims is 75 years old, is a reusable silicon cup that comes in 2 sizes.  Model 1 is for women under 30 who have never given birth, and Model 2 for women over 30, or those who have given birth. It is inserted vaginally and covers the cervix.

After an initial investment of about $30-$40, it may be last time you spend money on "feminine hygiene products".  It can be purchased at or, and in many health food stores.

I'm a devoted user of the cup, but was initially hesitant. Inserting a cup into my vagina that simply collects the blood? Not feasible...until I tried. After a simple insertion, I only had to empty the cup once  a day, and often forgot I had it! When emptying the cup at home, you can wash it in the sink, which begs the question of public restrooms. This problem is solved by emptying the cup in the toilet.

Why stop with reusable grocery bags? The Diva Cup is an affordable change that makes a big difference for the environment and your wellbeing.

Posted by on June 14th, 2009 2 Comments

Plastics on My Brain

At work, we recently developed some beautiful materials educating people about various toxins hiding in everyday items. The card about plastic keeps me up at night.

Plastics are labeled with numbers surrounded by triangles (stamped underneath the item).  For years, I thought it had to do with recycling. Turns out, these numbers signify my exposure to toxins: 09-plastic-spectrum-image1

Some yucky plastic facts:

  • #7 is the plastic we highlighted in a recent post. (Bisphenol A-known as BPA.) I won't repeat the gory details here, but will say that all Nalgene has left the building at my house.
  • #3 is PVC (vinyl).  This is lovingly referred to as "the poison plastic" because it contains mercury (linked to cancer), dioxin (carcinogen linked to birth defects, sperm damage and asthma) and phthalates (increased estrogen).

After a thorough inspection of my house, I found #7 = baby bottles, sippy cups and the 5 gallon water cooler commonly found in offices. #3 was my shower curtain, some of my son's toys, plastic food wrap (!!!) and some food storage containers. It was the take-out soup container for my favorite restaurant!

Take a look around your house.  Choose safer plastics like #1, #2, #4 or #5.

There are some great resources available for smarter choices around food and plastics, a plastic container buying guide, and a little bedside reading about the harmful effects of plastics on kids and your reproductive health that will keep you up at night.

Posted by on April 28th, 2009 2 Comments