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What Women Can Do To Stop the Whitewash

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

There are an endless number of actions women can take to convince manufacturers to make chlorine-bleached sanitary products, disposable diapers and incontinence pads much more environment-friendly.
Here are just a few:

  • Call the toll-free 1-800 number on tampon and sanitary product boxes (in the case of Kimberly-Clark and Playtex, call collect) and demand that manufacturers get the chlorine out of their products
(ALL the chlorine - chlorine gas, chlorine dioxide and hypochlorite).

Don't be fooled when tampon makers say they don't use chlorine in their processes - they may not use chlorine on their own premises, but they do buy rayon (used in most tampon brands) from outside suppliers. Rayon is made in a highly-chlorinated process (although there is some chlorine-free rayon now on the market in Europe).

Don't be fooled when sanitary napkin producers say that no dioxins and furans (from chlorine bleaching) are detected in their products. Non-detect does not mean zero. There are also hundreds of chlorinated compounds which have not yet even been identified in pulp mill effluent. Scientists still don't know the full impact of these mystery substances on our ecosystems (and our bodies).

Follow up your telephone call with a letter, and insist on a response.

  • Tell the pharmacy or store where you buy sanitary products that you want these products to be totally chlorine-compound free.

  • Also demand that sanitary product manufacturers get the plastic out - eliminate plastic tampon applicators, poly-bagging and individually-wrapped sanitary napkins.

  • Sign and send a card to the Prime Minister or President - demanding better tampon standards, more responsible eco-labelling of products, elimination of chlorine bleaching in sanitary products.

  • Talk about sanitary products with your friends, family and colleagues. (It's about time these products - and the whole topic of menstruation - came out of the closet.) Discuss health issues including Toxic Shock Syndrome - which many women wrongly believe is past history - as well as environmental issues such as waste and toxic chemicals.

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

  • Ask all the major feminine hygiene companies to use their savvy to create an effective, REUSABLE product.

  • Try the reusable sanitary products already on the market. Things certainly have changed for the better since our grannies' day! We now have automatic washers and dryers, for one thing, and the new generation of reusable sanitary products has come an enormously long way from the rag of yester-year.

  • Sign up of a diaper service for your baby (and yourself!). Environment Canada says good diaper services are even more ecologically sound than many home-washing methods, and so much less wasteful than &disposables. Make sure the service you choose DOESN'T use chlorine bleach!

  • Most importantly, work together with other women to press for change. With our massive consumer clout, we can make a huge difference for the better!
(And don't forget to put pressure on politicians too...)

  • The WEED Foundation has Stop the Whitewash Action Kits for people and groups interested in fighting for a cleaner, less toxic environment. Contact: Women and Environments Education and Development Foundation (WEEDS), 517 College St, Suite 233, Toronto, Ontario M6G 4A2 ~ Email:

For more information, or to share YOUR ideas for action with US, call the WEED Foundation in Toronto at 416-928-0880.

Get Your Community Involved Too!

It's crucial to pass the message about toxic chlorine pollution (and mountains of waste!) along to as many women as possible. So here are a few more ideas:

  • Contact WEED for a speaker or workshop on the issue.
  • Hold your own public meeting. Speak to the PTA, your church/synagogue/temple group, to the Women's Institute, or groups of friends and\and colleagues.
  • Ask your local libraries to obtain a copy of the HarperCollins book, WHITEWASH, by Liz Armstrong and Adrienne Scott.
  • Insist on unbleached or chlorine-compound-free paper products of all kinds
(preferably with plenty of recycled content).
  • Organize a walk/rally/information seminar on the issue.
  • Contact your local MP /MPP (or other govt. representative) and tell them how you feel about getting the chlorine out.
  • Contact federal and provincial (or State) Environmental ministers.
  • Contact Status of Women ministers with your opinions about paper bleached with any chlorine-based compounds.

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
• More On-line Articles


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Last updated - February 8, 2017