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  • Writer's pictureBee Care Pharmacy

Why New York’s Period Product Labeling Act Is So Important

The average woman will use about 13,000 tampons in her lifetime, which means that these products—and the potentially harmful ingredients they contain—are sitting inside her body for around six years. “Companies deciding to not actively disclose ingredients in period care products is [like] saying you don’t have a right to know what’s in your tampon,” says Meika Hollender, cofounder and CEO of pioneering sexual wellness brand Sustain, who has spent her career fighting against this lack of transparency. “Period.”

New York has now become the first state in the nation to require that every menstrual product on the market disclose its ingredients on the packaging. The Menstrual Products Right To Know Act, which was championed by New York State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, requires brands to print a “plain and conspicuous” list of ingredients on all menstrual product packages or boxes including tampons and pads. The law will go into effect in late January 2020, but companies will have 18 months from that point to introduce new packaging with labels listing ingredients. “Practically every product on the market today is required to list its ingredients, yet these items have inexplicably evaded this basic consumer protection,” Cuomo said in a statement. “It’s part of the pervasive culture of inequality in our society that has gone on for too long.”

A key figure in lobbying for the new regulations alongside the advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth, Hollender views the law as proof that the whole landscape of period care is changing. “Up until more recently, with more natural brands coming to market, women have been in the dark about the ingredients in their period products,” she explains.” The fact that things like ‘rayon’ and ‘synthetic fragrances’ could be found on the back of a tampon box will hopefully push the industry towards not only disclosure but ingredient change.”




Robyn McLean, cofounder of menstrual cup company Hello Cup, agrees. She believes that it’s a fundamental right for a woman to know the ingredients of whatever she buys—and the more information she has, the more it allows her to make a healthy choice. "Never before have we been more aware of what we put in and on our bodies, from good food choices to beauty products," says McLean. "[The Menstrual Products Right To Know Act] will definitely make people with periods think about what products they use." After all, it doesn't take more than a quick Google search to understand why transparency is so important. “Menstrual products, especially those worn internally, interact with an extremely absorbent part of the body and one with a delicate ecosystem,” explains Christina Bobel, president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research and a professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She points to links between ingredients found in mass-produced menstrual products and chemicals that the EPA has flagged as being carcinogenic or likely to cause other medical problems. “Companies have used—and will continue to use—ingredients and components that are or may be of questionable safety, so it is important for consumers to know what they are buying. With this information, they can choose to research these materials to decide if they are comfortable with them in or near their bodies.”

For McLean, it’s also important to note that for too long, menstruation and, as a result, period products, have been taboo subjects. And this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality explains in part how big corporations have been able to keep consumers in the dark for so long. "We’ve been dictated to by global corporations who, until relatively recently, have pretty much had a monopoly on the period market," explains McLean. Bobel says that it was precisely this stigma that helped maintain the unfortunate status quo. “Menstrual stigma has been effective in narrowing our attention—to just clean it up and be done with it,” explains Bobel. “This is how we have been socialized, and the stigma works to resist conscious consumption. We are fixated on managing our periods and seeking the most efficient means to do that, so we typically don’t drill down to the content, quality, or environmental impact of the materials we use.”

That being said, Bobel believes there is an exciting and encouraging cultural shift happening. Women are thinking more critically and making more informed decisions about menstruation—and the new law is evidence of just that. “For some consumers, [it will make it easier] to scrutinize their menstrual products and use ingredient labels to compare products,” explains Bobel. “For others who are not already label-readers in the aisles of the grocery or drug store, the ingredient list can call their attention to something they had not considered before: ‘Hey! What’s this? Is that safe? Do I need that in my body? Do I want that in my body?’” From period shaming to the so-called tampon tax, there’s a long way to go in further addressing and improving menstrual health, particularly on a national or even global scale, but the Menstrual Products Right To Know Act is a small sign of significant progress. “Information is power,” says Bobel. “Labels can encourage a different kind of consumerism—more aware and more demanding of quality and safety.”

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