Sunday 11 April 2021
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Alternative vs Disposable Menstrual Pads

Whether to opt for reusable or disposable products is a subject worth revisiting again considering the current health complications and environmental issues. However, an option of that kind come with individuals’ personal choices of what they feel best suits their lifestyles. A subject worth revisiting when it comes to lifestyle is the choice of whether to use reusable or disposable sanitary towels.

Although menstruation is natural to women’s health cycle, it could be the most dreaded time of the month for those who live in less privileged areas. Menstruation is also one of the factors affecting girls’ education contributing to a high number of female school drop outs.

According to an article written by Neha Borkar before the invention of disposable sanitary towels women used old cloth rags during their periods. They would tear old clothes especially made of cotton to absorb the menstrual flow. Once they became wet, they were washed and used the next time.

The very first disposable pads were made from wood pulp bandages by nurses in France. It was very absorbent, and cheap enough to throw away afterwards. Commercial manufacturers borrowed this idea and the first disposable pads that were available for purchase came as early as 1888 – called the Southball pad. In America, Johnson & Johnson developed their own version in 1896 called Lister’s Towel: Sanitary Towel’s for Ladies.

Hildegard Titus, the founder of Power Pads Girls an initiative that donates reusable sanitary towels to underprivileged girls says that she finds it hard to give positives of the disposable pads because they might only be cheaper in the short term but harmful to the environment in the long run. “Disposable pads have all these chemicals and scents which may not be good for female genitals. Moreover, reusable pads are usually made out of cotton which is breathable material compared to plastic,” she explains.

Reusable pads are made from soft, breathable fabrics that allow for air flow. This ensures less sweating, irritation and chafing when one uses them. Bleaching agents used to get disposable pads’ pristine white colour may also be harmful to women. Reusable pads also cut on the chances of yeast infections due to the increased air flow. Disposables also use synthetic fibers like rayon, which are super-absorbent, but will also absorb all the moisture in the vagina, increasing one’s chances of severe pain and infections, especially if they wear them for prolonged hours.

Disposables are typically made with a combination of plastics, cotton, synthetic fibers and wood pulp. Conventionally produced cotton is one of the most toxic crops grown, using 20 percent of the world’s pesticides and herbicides. These materials are then bleached with chlorine dioxide, creating polluting, harmful and bio-accumulative byproducts like dioxin, which not only end up in the environment, but also remain in one’s body for decades. More synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances all lead to side effects like allergic reactions, hormone disruption, reproductive and gynecological disorders like endometriosis.

Hildegard further explained that reusable pads are environmental friendly compared to the disposal pads which add to land pollution. “Disposable pads are made from materials that are not easily decomposed and this increases land pollution,” says Hildegard. The plastics in a pad will take hundreds of years to decompose. The process of manufacturing these disposables may also pollute waterways, air and animal habitats.

Although reusable pads may have a larger initial cost, they last much, much longer with proper care. When it comes to disposable pads they only have a lifespan of a few hours before it’s thrown away, forcing one to buy more and more. “Unlike buying a packet of pads which can cost you about N$30 for ten each, each time, a reusable pad can last for a year to two years’ time which helps you to save money as well because you spend money on something that is more sustainable other than having to buy new packets of pads every time,” says Hildegard.

When it comes to reusable options, one is more likely to question the hygiene. Many cloth pads use a removable liner for extra absorption, and many have a waterproof lining sewn inside. It may be a tad bulkier, but occasional bulk is infinitely better than a lifetime of health problems. With the right maintenance, reusable products are just as sanitary. For cloth pads, most recommend soaking them overnight in water (you can add hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil to sanitize further) and toss them in the wash for a hot water cycle.

Reusable pads keep a lot of disposable products out of landfills. An article written by Kimberley Mok, estimates that the typical woman uses more than 11,000 feminine hygiene products in her lifetime. Reusable products last much longer and stand up to multiple uses. They also don’t contain the toxic chemicals that disposables seem to have that can’t be good for the body or the environment.

Reusable menstrual pads come in a variety of styles, sizes and fabrics which are massive. Moreover, one does not choose the best size and absorbency for their needs, but they also get to choose the colors and patterns that most reflect their personal style.

It’s also another thing to remember that reusable pads are nothing new; women have used rags in the past. However it all depends on one’s personal choices. You may opt to wear reusable pads when you are in the comfort of your home and disposables when you are out and about.

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