Roger Bilmah, a public health specialist in Yaounde, has said the use of plastic sanitary pads by women can be likened to a ticking time bomb. According to him, despite their affordable nature, their numerous side effects on women make them a major public health problem.
Hear him; “women should know that plastic sanitary pads are very dangerous. The skin is highly permeable… especially the skin in and around the vaginal area. Anything coming in constant contact with the skin will land in the bloodstream for distribution throughout the body.”
Explaining how the pads affect women, Bilmah indicated that plastic restricts air flow into the vagina, and traps heat and dampness, potentially promoting yeast and bacteria growth in the vaginal area. The consequences, the Health Specialist says; “Is abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs, abnormal cell growth throughout the body, immune system suppression, hormonal and endocrine system disruption.
Bilmah also decried the fact that government and legislature often overlook such issues which affect the lives of Cameroonians. He said Government and stakeholders need to start checking what manufacturers use to produce these delicate products.
He asserted that most sanitary pads get the ultra-white “clean” look from chlorine bleach, which contains other potentially hazardous ingredients. According to him, this bleach can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection by-products, which cause bad odour and eventually become a public health threat. To him, knowing what ingredients manufacturers put in feminine hygiene products will greatly minimise most infections affecting women and girls today.
In order to stop such practices, the health specialist implored that the initiative to ban plastic should be radical and inclusive. He urged Government and legislators to put up policies and laws that will discourage the importation, manufacturing and distribution of such plastic sanitary pads in a bid to minimise potential life-threatening diseases.
He said women should avoid plastic sanitary towels and underwear, which stick to the vaginal wall and advised to go for organic cotton feminine hygiene products, which, he says, are safer alternatives.
The government of Cameroon had placed a ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags of less than 60 microns in 2014. Health experts and environmentalists in Cameroon had welcomed the initiative with a sigh of relief. This relief, they say, stemmed from the fact that, besides its negative effect on the environment due to its non-degradable nature, its toxic nature is also a threat to human health.
Despite these efforts, nothing has been said about plastics used in producing sanitary pads. The use of plastic as sanitary pads by women and girls, which are unfortunately dangerous to their health in the long run, have regrettably escaped the focus and attention of the government and other health stakeholders.
Popular opinion holds that most Cameroonian girls and women in resource-poor settings often see sanitary pads as luxury. But because of its necessity, they prefer the cheap conventional sanitary pads, which experts say are equivalent to about four plastic bags.
Most of these ‘affordable’ sanitary pads don’t even show expiry dates and it is often impossible to close, once a pack has been opened. This exposes it to dust and other chemicals.