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Effects of Disposable Diapers and Sanitary Napkins on Health and Environment

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Disposable diapers and menstrual products such as pads and tampons are very commonly used around the world today. Most people also consider these products a step towards modernity. However, the truth is that disposable menstrual products come with immense health and environmental concerns.

Nearly 336 million girls and women in India experience menstruation, out of which around 121 million girls and women use disposable sanitary napkins. The result of which is a staggering 1 billion non-compostable pads landing up in urban sewers, landfills, as well as in water bodies every month. Facts and figures state that 12.3 billion sanitary pads are disposed of in India annually, creating 113,000 tonnes of menstrual waste.

DISPOSAL DIAPERS

Apart from sanitary napkins, disposable diapers are also adding to the non-biodegradable waste. It constitutes 30% of the entire non-biodegradable waste. Facts and Figures suggest that 908 kgs of toxic, non-biodegradable waste are generated by a baby during his early childhood. With around 27 million babies getting born each year, it is adding hugely to the waste. It is about time that this environmental damage is stopped as disposable sanitary napkins and diapers are toxic, non-biodegradable products that have been creating menace ever since its inception.

Health Problems Faced by Women due to Disposable Sanitary Napkins

Women face many health problems that they are not aware of, due to the use of these disposable, non-biodegradable sanitary napkins. A woman uses approximately 6,000 sanitary napkins in her lifetime. The dioxin present in these disposable, non- biodegradable sanitary napkins accumulates in the body to cause serious health risks and diseases like diabetes, ovarian cancer, hormone dysfunction, pelvic inflammatory diseases to women. Some of the other common health problems that they face include-

  • Organ damage due to the chemicals like BPA and BPS that are used in making these pads
  • Bacterial Growth or Yeast Infection encouraged by the synthetic materials of the pad that causes blockage of wetness
  • Cervical Cancer because of the fiber contained in the absorbent pads.
  • Thyroid malfunction, infertility, and other health problems because of the pesticides and herbicides which becomes harmful when they reach a woman’s bloodstream.

    SANITARY PADS

Effects of Disposable Sanitary Napkins and Diapers on the Environment

If these health issues weren’t enough, these disposable plastic napkins and diapers incur a heavy cost to the environment as well. According to facts, if India’s women shift to using biodegradable disposable pads, it would reduce the waste of 90 million pads in just one month. This is how huge the amount of sanitary waste is.

The plastics components, as well as the wrappers of disposable products, are posing huge waste management challenges around the world. Every single pad is estimated to take 800-1000 years to decompose and if they are flushed down the toilet, it has to be moved towards manholes and be removed from sewer blockages, public toilets, household trash, or even roadside sometimes. These tasks put the workers at risk of contracting infections with potentially deadly viruses or diseases as well.

Alternative Choices to Disposable Sanitary Napkins

Considering a large amount of waste created from disposable pads and diapers and its repercussions on human health and environment, it is about time we shift to alternatives that reduce this waste subsequently. Some of the most common alternatives available to women today include-

  1. Menstrual Cups– The menstrual cups are made from silicon in the shape of a cup to collect the menstrual blood. It can be worn up to 12 hours and its content can simply be emptied into the toilet. The cup can be cleaned and used again

    MENSTRUAL CUPS
  2. Re-usable Cloth Sanitary Napkin– The reusable pads are made from cloth and are similar to disposables as it provides absorbency by using many layers of cotton. It is quite easy to care for and can be washed and reused easily. The reusable cloth napkins protect the user from coming in contact with a number of harmful chemicals present in disposable napkins.

As daunting as the thought of switching might be, the fact is that every sanitary napkin or disposable diaper that we save, can reduce waste and will have a cascading effect and positive impact on the air that we breath, the water that we drink, as well as the city and country that we live in.

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