Menstruation being a taboo subject for years, women resort to using old rags, which are secretively washed and dried in dark non-ventilated areas in unhygienic conditions. This ‘unclean’ cloth has led to numerous health problems, making us believe that cloth is ‘unhygienic’ and ‘dirty’ - which is far from the truth.
Cloth if used and maintained hygienically is hypoallergenic, reusable and bio-degradable. Modern day cloth pads/period panties are well designed, super absorbent and leak-proof. They come in various shapes, sizes and colors with adjustable wings and absorbency levels.
Here are a few reasons why you should ditch the disposable sanitary pads and switch to Reusable Cloth Pads and Period Panties.
1. Health: The modern day disposable pads contain a toxic soup of chemicals that is in close contact with the vaginal skin every month. These chemicals such as bleach and those in perfume, cause rashes, irritation, fungal infections and in long term, can result in endocrine disruption or hormonal imbalance. Also, number of menstruating women end up using the same pad for long periods of time. This is unhygienic and endangers their health. Many complain of rashes, itching and burning.
2. Economic: The cost of reusable menstrual hygiene products (like cloth pads, menstrual cups, period panties) may seem to be quite high but this is a one-time investment. A set of 8-12 cloth pads can last you 5 years and a good quality menstrual cup can be reused for 7-10 years. If we do the math, we realize how much more money we spend on disposable pads each year.
3. Environment: Plastics in the disposable sanitary napkins persist for 800 years in a landfill. Each disposable sanitary napkin has virgin plastic equivalent of 4 plastic bags. When buried, burnt or flushed, these cause serious air and water pollution due to the presence of toxic chemicals in the absorbent fillers and gel. Menstrual waste ends up littering roadsides or getting burned in huge trash heaps. This releases toxic dioxins into the atmosphere and also pollutes the soil and groundwater.
4. Violation of human rights and dignity of sanitation workers: Waste pickers separate out soiled napkins from recyclable items by hand, exposing themselves to micro-organisms like E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause hepatitis and tetanus. Disposable sanitary napkins have a high content of plastic polymers and super-absorbent gel, that makes the pad soak up water when flushed down the toilet. The pad continues to bloat as it makes its way through the underground rivers and clogs up the sewers. Sanitation workers have to go down these drains and remove them by hand, thus endangering their lives and lowering their quality of life.
5. Waste management crisis: Indian cities are burdened with overwhelming amounts of mismanaged waste, most of it being mixed and sanitary waste. In urban bodies, sanitary waste is a humongous burden on solid waste disposal systems and financially unsustainable due to no recycle value of disposed product.
Contribution by Priyanka Jain for Menstrual Hygiene Day