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Fast Facts From Whitewash

• Women own less than 1% of the world's wealth, but (in North America) buy more than 80% of day-to-day goods and services (and all the feminine hygiene products).
This is enormous consumer clout if we choose to use it.

Image: Whitewash: Exposing the Health and Environmental Dangers of Women's Sanitary Products and Disposable Diapers : What You Can Do About It, by Liz Armstrong (Author), Adrienne Scott (Author). Publisher: Harpercollins (May 1993)

Whitewash: Exposing the Health and Environmental Dangers of Women's Sanitary Products and Disposable Diapers
Click for more info: US | CA | UK

• Women, in poll after poll, indicate that they are more deeply concerned than men about the environment, and more committed to taking action.

• While individual acts of environmental conservation (such as composting kitchen waste, and recycling newspapers and pop cans, planting trees) are essential; they simply aren't enough to really change the world. The American journal Garbage magazine estimates that to offset all the carbon we spew into the air from driving cars (and committing other greenhouse gas sins), each North American would have to plant 880 trees annually.

• The pulp and paper industry tries to trivialize the chlorinated toxins it dumps into the environment by claiming that they measure up to only a few parts per billion, trillion or quadrillion. (For perspective, the industry says, one part per trillion equals one second in 32,000 years, while one part per quadrillion equals one second in 32 million years.) Yet rainbow trout have experienced delayed mortality (death 28 days after exposure) and changes in growth and behaviour at the imaginably low dose of 38 parts per quadrillion of dioxin. In numeral, here is what this fraction looks like:

75% of Canadian bleached mills discharge effluents that are acutely lethal, and even after dilution by receiving waters, 70% of the freshwater bleached pulp mill effluents are still within the range of chronic toxicity. The chronic effects observed downstream of Canadian bleached pulp mills include significant irreversible factors which jeopardize the continuance of the species and the integrity of the ecosystem. (Effluents From Pulp Mills Using Bleaching: Priority List Assessment Report #2, Sheila Jones et al, Ottawa. Supply and Services Canada, 1991)

• Paper consumption per capital was about 130 to 150 pounds per year prior to the Second World War. It now stands at 640 pounds per year in the United States, and about 550 pounds in Canada.

If everyone in the World - all 5.5 billion of us - consumed paper and paperboard products at the same rate we do here (in North America), logging for pulp would have to increase over 7 times. Overall, loggers would have to cut almost 3 times as much forest as they do now . . . Since forests and other ecosystems are already straining under the pressure of the world's demands, it is inconceivable that they could support increases of this magnitude. John C. Ryan, Worldwatch Institute, Washington.

• Every year, North American women spend about 2 billion dollars per year on single-use disposable sanitary napkins and tampons.

• In 1990, over 12 billion sanitary pads were land-filled or incinerated in Canada and the United States. Twenty billion soiled or soggy disposable diapers made the same journey.

> • The average women throws away over 10,000 sanitary napkins or tampons during her lifetime.

Image: The Sanitary Protection Scandal, by Alison, Bernadette Valleley, Josa Young Costello (Author). Publisher: Women's Environmental Network (1989)

The Sanitary Protection Scandal
Click for more info: US | CA | UK

• In Canada, tongue depressors, bandages and dental floss are considered medical devices, but not women's menstrual pads. Sanitary products can be placed on the market without prior evidence of safety or efficacy.

Disposable diapers account for a whopping 85% of the market in North America, amounting to $4 billion per year in sales.

• Used plastic tampon applicators wash up by the thousands on coastal beaches every year. Canadian cities like Halifax, Victoria and parts of Montreal, discharge 1,000's of tons of untreated, raw sewage straight into the ocean (and in Montreal's case, the St. Lawrence River) every year.

• Tampon-related Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is NOT past history. For every full-blown case of TSS (as defined by the Centres of Disease Control in Atlanta) that researcher Dr. Philip Tierno Jr. of New York University Medical Centre encounters, he sees 5 to 7 cases - some very serious - that do not fit the criteria. (CDC criteria: a fever of 38.9 degrees C (102 degrees F) and a rash, followed by peeling of the skin two weeks after onset, low blood pressure and involvement of three major organ systems.)

• Women under 30 are most at risk with tampon-related TSS, especially teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Risk rises with the absorbency of the tampon.

• One of the pulp and paper industry's standard come-backs to the toxic waste problem is that the life expectancy of humans hasn't suffered, that we're still living to grand old ages, maybe even longer than before. But look more closely at human health statistics: sperm counts are down, the number of birth defects has doubled over the last 25 years and cancer statistics are still on the rise. One in 3 Canadians will contract some form of cancer, not including non-melanoma skin cancers.

The publication of this material was made possible by a grant from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The view and ideas expressed herein are those of the Stop the Whitewash campaign organizers and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Stop the Whitewash and the Waste is a project of the Women and Environments Education and Development Foundation (WEEDS)
To contact them for further information: 517 College St, Suite 233, Toronto, Ontario M6G 4A2 ~ Phone: 416-928-0880 ~ Fax: 416-928-9640 ~ Email:

This article compliments of Born to Love.

More Menstrual Resources:

Online Resources
Books to Read
Charting Cycles
Discussion Lists

Menstrual Articles

Menstrual Products and Health
Feminine Ecology Notes
Women Taking the Initiative for a Safer Environment
Fast Facts from Whitewash
Backgrounder: What Are Organochlorines? And Why Are They So Dangerous?
What Women Can Do to Stop the Whitewash
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Last updated - February 8, 2017