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In 2010 and 2011, women in North America stocked up on $3 billion worth of feminine hygiene products. More shocking than the dollars spent, however, is the fact that it’s an almost completely unregulated industry. A new report by Women’s Voices for the Earth highlights the presence of toxic materials (like dioxins, furans, and pesticides) in pads, tampons, douches, wipes, and creams, and calls for greater scrutiny and regulation of these products. The toxins are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and allergic reactions.

Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose ingredients in pads and tampons because these products are considered “medical devices.” Sprays, washes, and creams are considered to be cosmetics, which the FDA recommends—rather than mandates—be tested. It’s a sobering fact, and without regulation, it’s simply not possible to know how materials used in these products could affect women’s health.

Consumer advocates like Andrea Donsky and Women’s Voices for the Earth are leading the charge for greater transparency for these products, and new federal policy could bring about such a change. The Safe Cosmetics & Personal Care Products Act of 2013 (which was introduced in March 2013 and has been bouncing from committee to committee without receiving a vote), seeks to improve regulation of personal care products, including tampons, pads, and douches. In the meantime, all-natural and reusable products, like those in this roundup from The Green Mama, offer alternatives to conventional products. For additional options, check out the list below.

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