Chemical Watch Article
by Vanessa Zainzinger
US NGO Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) is leaning on legislators to impose laws that will require manufacturers to list the ingredients in menstrual products, amid rising concerns about the use of nanosilver in pads and period underwear.
In a fact sheet released last week, WVE reveals that the use of nanosilver as a biocide in “antibacterial” menstrual care products has increased. But studies show that the compound is effective at killing various strains of lactobacilli, bacteria that aids vaginal health by preventing the growth of other harmful microorganisms.
These disruptions of “good” bacteria in the vagina “can lead to bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and fertility concerns,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s director of science and research.
The NGO also points to a study on rabbits, which showed that nanosilver can be cytotoxic, particularly to vaginal epithelial cells, and that vaginal administration of nanosilver can lead to migration of silver particles into the bloodstream.
It adds that research into the absorption of nanosilver into vaginal tissue from menstrual product use is scarce. The biocide’s use in other consumer products, such as socks and sports wear, has been subject to environmental concerns due to its migratory properties.
With period products coming into direct contact with the most absorbent parts of the body, we are “just starting to scratch the surface on how this unique route of exposure … is impacting health”, Miss Scranton said.
The FDA, meanwhile, has begun funding research into the effects of nanoparticles on women’s health. This includes a rodent and human mucosal model study that will examine the migration of nanosilver into vaginal tissue and its toxic potential.
WVE is backing legislation that would require manufacturers to list the ingredients in menstrual products, as a way to help consumers avoid exposure to nanosilver.
Such state-level bills are currently being considered in Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York.
WVE expects the latter will be listed on the agenda of the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection committee or the New York Senate Women’s Issues committee in the coming weeks.
“I’m very optimistic of the bill’s ability to pass the New York legislature with the leadership of the bill’s sponsors, Senate Roxanne Persaud and Assembly member Linda B Rosenthal,” said Jamie McConnell, the NGO’s director of programmes and policy. If the bill passes, it would be the first such law to take effect in the USA.
Meanwhile, the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act – federal legislation introduced by Grace Meng (D–New York) and Carolyn Maloney (D–New York) – is being considered in the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce committee. There is no date scheduled for a hearing yet, but WVE said it is “hopeful” the bill will go to a committee vote this year.
The measure would require disclosure of ingredients in tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear.
But the trade association Center for Baby and Adult Hygiene Products (BAHP) said the proposed legislation does not approach ingredient disclosure “in a realistic way” and would hinder product development.
BAHP said its members do not use nanosilver as an antimicrobial in menstrual products. However, all materials used in their products are “rigorously evaluated for safety prior to marketing” and “routinely assessed to assure they have a low likelihood of irritation or causing allergic reactions”, the trade body added.