8M2023 – For regulations in favor of toxic-free menstruation: fairness, accessibility and health

On March 8, 2023, the United Nations wants to pay tribute to women and organizations that are fighting for the advancement of transformative technology and for women’s access to digital education.

A transformative technology and access to education must be accompanied by information that is independent of economic interests and that allows women an active role, both in the prevention of diseases and in the transformation of a more just.

Women, more affected by toxics

Many studies warn of the toxicity of a wide range of consumer products, especially in the plastic industry where menstrual products are also included.

According to the IDAEA-CSIC researcher, Doctor Ethel Eljarrat, “most of the products we use on a daily basis contain chemical compounds. There are some that can enter our body and accumulate there. They are endocrine disruptors, neurotoxic and can be carcinogenic. Dr. Nicolas Olea continues: “the main victims of these potentially carcinogenic compounds are women. Women develop more diseases because of this productive model stained with dangerous chemical substances”.

A very clear and symbolic example are menstrual products. According to Doctor Elena Carreras, in TV3 news report she stated that “any product that comes into contact with the skin or mucous membranes must be perfectly labeled to know what its components are. From a gender perspective is totally reprehensible that there isn’t labeling on menstrual products and it its not done specifically on materials that are used by women.

With the lack of control over toxic menstrual products, therefore, the gender bias that women suffer in medicine is repeated. According to Dr. Carme Valls, “medicine, like other sciences, has gender stereotypes that make us invisible. If they see us, they consider us inferior and almost always want to control us.” And we are invisible, first of all, due to the lack of gender-differentiated research and the lack of a gender perspective in the analysis of health data.

Nou Periode, Rezero’s proposal to take action

For this reason, with Nou Periode program, Rezero has developed several pioneering actions such as technical advice in the drafting of the Menstrual Equity and Sustainable Menstruation Plan of the Generalitat de Catalunya; the bloody manifesto; the digital guides for the public and for teachers, and a directory of reusable menstrual products (which, in most cases, do not contain toxic substances), among others.

The objective of Nou Periode is to provide objective information to girls, women and other menstruating people and to promote a critical and active attitude in relation to the defense of their menstrual rights. And that’s why we count on the complicity of feminist and environmental groups, schools and institutes and local and supra-municipal institutions, to contribute to transmitting a critical view.

A long way to go

Despite the continuous denunciation of the scientific world, environmental and feminist groups and a very active young population, the regulations are not covering the basic need to protect women’s health in the matter of menstruation. So far, the Spanish State has lowered the VAT on menstrual products as part of the package of fiscal measures for the year 2022. Despite this progress, it does not mention any measure in favor of women’s health: not even about menstrual products reusable and no requirement for labeling and transparency in the composition of menstrual products.

On the other hand, it seems that the current government of the Generalitat de Catalunya does want to include in the future waste law, both the elimination of dangerous chemical substances and toxins in intimate hygiene products, as well as the obligation of producers and packers to incorporate chemical components in a specific way in the labeling.

Regulations that protect women’s health

Some examples of regulations that have already begun to appear to deal with the problem of toxins in menstrual products are in the state of California, where PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been banned in menstrual products or in New York where also have banned PFAS from clothing, including underwear.

For all this, on March 8, International Women’s Day, we defend the right to opt for consumption without chemical compounds, especially those that can affect women’s health. In this sense, menstrual products are key. We ask that the Catalan government continue with its purpose of overcoming the discrimination that has been done so far with a subject as delicate as menstrual products and we encourage other regions to follow its example.

March 8th