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Get the plastic out of your period

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The Women's Environmental Network, Environmental Week, #Period Action, eco-friendly periods, end period povertyWe need to change social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation.

The Women’s Environmental Network, (WEN), a UK charity working on issues that link women, health and the environment, is in the throes of its first ever Environmenstrual Week of Action – and taking #PeriodAction to make healthy eco-friendly menstrual products available for all.

What you can do:

Don’t flush your disposable menstrual products down the toilet; bag and bin them.

Even products labelled biodegradable or flushable shouldn’t be flushed, as they may take months to break down, blocking pipes and polluting marine environment.

Consider using washable pads, a menstrual cup or period-proof underwear.

Choose tampons and pads made from 100 per cent organic cotton without plastic.

Avoid lubricated and/or fragranced products; they are polluting, and generate unnecessary additional exposure to potentially harmful synthetic chemicals.

Why?

Health – Many conventional disposable menstrual products are bleached white, and this process creates the chemical dioxin, a known endocrine disruptor.

Many women have reported adverse allergic reactions to the synthetic ingredients, fragrances and plastics in disposable menstrual products.

Just as in cosmetics, fragrances can be comprised of allergens, sensitisers and phthalates (a class of chemicals that has been linked to hormone disruption), which can affect development and fertility.

Period poverty – A study by Plan International UK, from a survey of 1000 14 – 21 year-olds, found that 10 per cent of girls could not afford menstrual products.

The study also found that 12 per cent of girls had to improvise menstrual wear due to affordability issues and 14 per cent had to ask to borrow menstrual products from a friend.

Flushing and disposal – The Marine Conservation Society found that around half of UK women flush tampons away.

That means 1.5-2 billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s toilets each year, causing massive sewage and waterway issues such as the Whitechapel Fatberg.

Plastic – In the UK, the average woman uses over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in a lifetime.

Tampons, pads and panty liners along with their packaging generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year, and they all contain plastic – in fact, pads are around 90 per cent plastic!

The average user throws away an astonishing 125 to 150kg of tampons, pads and applicators in their lifetime.

Plastic waste ends up in landfill or, even worse, in seas, rivers and beaches.

Taboo or period shaming – has a massive impact on the products we use and how we dispose of them. With the result that they can affect our health, end up in landfills or on our beaches.

Changing social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation could have a major positive impact on our health and on the environment.

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