New York is set to be the first state in the nation to require period product makers to disclose ingredients.
“I know what’s in my toothpaste and my shampoo, I should know what’s in my tampons,” said New York Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal in a statement. “Menstruators have a right to know the ingredients in products that they put in and on some of the most sensitive parts of their bodies 24 hours a day, for seven to 10 days a month every month for as many as 40 years. For years, menstruators have been stigmatized, their periods shrouded by shame. This legislation helps to smash the stigma surrounding menstruation and helps empower menstruators to make educated decisions about the products they use on their most sensitive parts of their bodies.”
State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud feels similarly. “We know what’s in the food we eat, the medicine we take and the clothes we wear,” said Persaud. “The millions of consumers in New York have an absolute right to also know what’s in our menstrual products; this legislation will resolve that, giving us the power to make better, safer choices when purchasing such products.”
Unlike personal care products, tampons, pads and menstrual cups are considered “medical devices” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not subject to ingredient labeling. As a result, ingredients used in these products are rarely disclosed publicly. That’s why Rosenthal and Persaud both introduced identical legislation—A.164-A and S.2387-B—to require disclosure of ingredients in tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear sold in New York State.
“This bill makes sure that people are informed about the ingredients in the products that they need to manage their period,” said Amber Garcia, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth. “It builds on WVE’s work to ensure that people are able to see what is in their products, and that toxic chemicals are not present in the products that we all use in our everyday lives. No one should have to worry that their period products will cause harm to their health or future fertility. This legislation is an important first step.”
This week, the legislation passed both houses of the state legislature—marking a major victory in the fight for period transparency.
“New York State is addressing the issue of menstrual health, head on,” said Karen Joy Miller, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Inc. “The passage of this legislation is an important step to protect New Yorkers from unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals in period products, many of which have been linked to serious health problems. We have a right to know what’s in the things we buy, and this legislation will give consumers the power to make better, safer choices.”
Potentially harmful substances like nanosilver are found in some period underwear and pads. Nanosilver is effective at killing bacteria, including lactobacilli, which is necessary for a healthy vagina, but vaginal administration of nanosilver can lead to migration of silver particles into the bloodstream. The use of nanosilver and other added chemicals in period products is increasing, but the studies on their effects are insufficient, and people aren’t aware of what they are being exposed to.
“For years, women’s health has been at the mercy of the companies making period products because they’ve not been required to disclose any of the toxic chemicals they intentionally add like nanosilver,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Co-Leader of the Just Green Partnership. “People who menstruate, especially those who live in communities of color where there are disproportionate levels of toxic exposure, have a fundamental right to this information—especially considering the health risks some ingredients like nanosilver pose.”
“Phasing out harmful and unnecessary toxic chemicals in menstrual products will have a lasting effect on both the health of the New Yorkers who use them and the environment,” said Caitlin Ferrante, Conservation & Development Program Manager for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Ultimately, these chemicals find their way into the environment, be it through the air, water, or when these products eventually end up in the landfill. The Sierra Club applauds the Legislature for taking this much needed action to ensure New Yorkers are one step closer to a toxic-free future.”
Some period product manufacturers already disclose intentionally added ingredients, highlighting the need to standardize disclosure practices across all brands, and for additional research into the impacts of the use of different chemicals on vaginal health, overall health and future fertility.
“At Seventh Generation, we believe menstruators have a right to know what’s in the products they use,” said Ashley Orgain Global Director Advocacy and Sustainability. “Truth and transparency are not just the right thing to do, they’re what’s good for business. That’s why Seventh Generation has been disclosing ingredients since 2008 and advocating this be the law of the land. Assembly member Rosenthal and Senator Persaud are helping New York lead the nation with the passage of Bill A.164-A/S.2387-B.”
“Disclosing ingredients is no longer a ‘nice to have’ when it comes to consumer products, customers now demand it,” said Meika Hollender, Co-founder & CEO of Sustain Natural. “Especially when it comes to tampons, of which menstruating people use an average of 11,000 in their lifetime, there is no way to argue in my mind that a person should not have the right to access information about what’s in these products. In order to make responsible and informed decisions about our health, and the health of our families, it is a consumer’s right to know what’s in their products. This legislation will make New York State a leader in ingredient transparency, while also supporting innovation, and I am thrilled that I and Sustain have been an advocate of this bill since day one.”
The measure was also backed by the JustGreen Partnership, a collaboration over 50 groups representing over a million New Yorkers working for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities.
“We deserve the right to know what’s in our products, and it’s shocking that in 2019 a law is what it takes to get us the information we need,” said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York and Co-leader of the JustGreen Partnership. “New York leads the way to make information available across the U.S. We strongly supported New York’s efforts to expand information on cleaners and children’s products, to drive nationwide innovation. We look forward to celebrating the Governor’s signature on this measure.”
This new legislation is the most recent in a series of actions taken in New York State to address period policies. In addition to this bill, Rosenthal also successfully led other similar initiatives, including repealing the “tampon tax” and establishing a law requiring free products in correctional facilities and schools.