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Cruelty in cosmetics

Holly Daffurn reveals the cruel truth behind 'safety tests' for sanitary products and nappies
Cruelty in cosmetics

This article appears in the spring issue of Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 07 April 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online.

Sanitary towels and nappies take 500 to 800 years to decompose – and the average woman goes through around 17,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime.Throw in the risk of exposure to toxic and potentially harmful chemicals – plus the environmental problems related to the manufacture of sanitary towels and tampons – and the choice for any eco-savvy woman is pretty obvious.

Most people are aware of the environmental, ecological and health bene its of using washable nappies. I’d also heard animal experimentation was prevalent in the manufacturing of their disposable counterparts – but when an anonymous source offered to send me the safety test certi ficates for a nappy brand, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

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If you avoid products that are tested on animals and lead a lifestyle that limits animal cruelty, then you may be as horri fied as I was to discover that the production of sanitary towels involves animal experimentation.

A leading nappy brand’s declaration of conformity with the EU Acute Dermal Irritation Test for cosmetic products reveals that a sample was applied to a rabbit’s ‘clipped test site’ and ‘occluded’ – meaning sealed or closed up – for four hours as part of testing.

Further research reveals it’s common practice to force animals to inhale or ingest the small particles used to make nappies and sanitary products. The manufacturer stated, ‘We can absolutely con firm that we do not test our nappies and wipes on animals. That said animals may be used in testing to ensure the safety and ef ficacy of some raw materials when suitable alternatives are not available and the testing is mandated by regulatory authorities.’ So while the finished product isn’t tested on animals, the company admits to using animal experimentation on materials used to make nappies – and getting away with it by manipulating language.

Test requested by nappy brand

Test requested by nappy brand


From the same set of test certi ficates I discovered that chemical tests for lead, arsenic and mercury were carried out as part of the meticulous testing procedure. There’s also stringent testing in place to eliminate any possibility of fungi, aerobic bacteria, salmonella, candida albicans and more. While these tests are reassuring, they omit a large number of other chemicals that have been associated with serious medical conditions.

Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy and co-author of Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart, has looked into what exactly goes into sanitary products and found indications of dioxins, synthetic f ibres and petrochemical additives.

Her research concluded that one sanitary napkin contains as much plastic as you’d get in four plastic bags. Nappies and female hygiene products contain BPA and BPS, which can cause developmental problems in embryos and have been associated with cancer, and DEHP, which has been connected to organ damage.

Odour neutralisers and fragrance are added to many of these products. This is before we even start to consider how plastic prevents the skin from breathing and can trap in heat, potentially leading to bacteria growth and yeast infections.

It’s time to look for cruelty-free alternatives that suit you – and the environment. Look out for the Leaping Bunny logo on products certi fied by Cruelty Free International.

Click here for more from Holly Daffurn.

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