The Natracare Schools Programme  |  Your health and the environment

Your health and the environment

Chlorine bleaching

Chlorine bleaching releases toxins into the environment, and will leave detectable residuals in the end product. Any ingredient that starts with the letters “chloro” suggests the presence of an organochlorine. Organochlorines are contained in many of the familiar products we find in our shops such as solvents, pesticides, plastics, disinfectants, plastic packaging and chlorine-bleached pulp and paper products such as toilet paper, kitchen roll and many feminine hygiene products.

In making organochlorine products, highly toxic by-products, such as dioxins, are produced at the same time and accumulate in the environment and the fat cells of animals. Similar major pollution problems also occur when these chlorinated products, such as plastics and solvents, are burned or incinerated as rubbish, as there is then environmental fallout of dioxin that accumulates in the food chain.

There are different types of chlorine bleaches used today in the paper and feminine hygiene industry. The main causes of dioxin pollution being Elemental chlorine (also called chlorine gas), as well as Elemental chlorine-free bleach. This bleach is not free of chlorine at all. The use of chlorine-free in this case means that it is not bleached using Elemental chlorine, called chlorine gas.
The only true chlorine-free bleach is Hydrogen peroxide, which is referred to as Totally Chlorine-Free or TCF. This is the only bleaching method that Natracare uses.

Dioxin pollution

Dioxins are some of the most deadly chemicals created. Classified as carcinogenic, (cause cancer) dioxins are found in pesticides, plastics, solvents, detergents and cosmetics. For over a decade, concerns have been raised about the impact of dioxins on our health with respect to heart and liver disease, hormonal disruption and cancer, to name but a few.

Dioxins, furans and PCB’s, which are generally referred to as dioxin-like compounds, are highly toxic organochlorines. These compounds are extremely fat seeking. There are some natural organochlorines in the atmosphere, but considerably greater amounts of artificially produced ones. Minute traces of dioxins may have existed before industrialisation, but a huge rise occurred in the late 1940’s along with the expansion of organochlorine manufacture, which started at this time, and the extensive use of pesticides in agriculture worldwide.

The production of dioxins in the manufacture of paper pulp products such as tampons and sanitary pads, are not only harmful to the environment, but also unnecessarily expose women to low levels of dioxins every time they use these products. Dioxin settles in the fat cells of our bodies and stay there for the rest of our lives, building up cumulatively over time from birth, so increased exposure means increased risk.

Organochlorines (OP’s) are contained in many of the familiar products we find in our shops such as solvents, pesticides, plastics, disinfectants, plastic packaging and chlorine-bleached pulp and paper products such as toilet paper, kitchen roll and some feminine hygiene products .

We all have to take responsibility for the products we use that contribute to the release of dioxins into the environment, and make sure that we do not use products that expose us to dioxins.

How many people will be using wood preservatives in their gardens every spring? If the label shows Pentachlorophenol (PCP), it contains dioxin impurities, and so too do 2,4,5-T and some other pesticides gardeners will happily spread amongst their plants, and how do they dispose of the old tins of pesticides sitting on the shelf in the garden shed?

Any ingredient that starts with the letters “chloro” suggests the presence of an organochlorine. In making organochlorine products, highly toxic by-products such as dioxins are inadvertently made at the same time and accumulate in the same way as PCBs. Similar, major pollution problems also arise when these chlorinated products, such as plastics and solvents, are burned or incinerated as rubbish resulting in environmental fallout of dioxin that accumulates in the food chain.


Pesticide use is widespread in the world and responsible for some of the more persistent dioxins and furans in the environment. More recent concerns about the effects of pesticides on human health have been raised. In a new report published in the journal Public Health, it was claimed that the large increase in Alzheimer’s and other dementia in men and women since 1979 may well be attributed to the effects of chemical pollution including pesticides, exhaust fumes and industrial chemicals.

Agricultural pesticides have been linked to infertility, suicidal depression and the most horrific birth defects imaginable. Every year, America alone produces enough pesticide to girdle the globe in one-pound flour bags. A deadly circle, for among them – as among pesticides from Europe – are substances that can damage the eyes, skin, immune and glandular systems, cause heart disease, asthma and cancer, and – most insidious of all – harm human sperm and eggs, impair the minds and bodies of unborn babies, and cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths. Governments routinely approve of thousands of pesticides without ever undergoing any notable safety testing, and pesticide regulations also ignore the potential for genetic vulnerability.

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers and are not only involved in fertility but in the growth and functioning of the brain and body. One of the pesticide industry’s bright ideas was to create chemicals that disrupt these endocrine messengers. Unfortunately, widely differing species use almost identical chemical messengers. So what disrupts a mosquito also damages larger creatures, including humans.

To learn more, check in the news section and read Committing pesticide by Moyra Bremner.


These are chemical substances used to kill the bacteria in foods and non-foods to prevent bacteria, moulds and fungus from making the product inedible and unusable.

The most commonly used preservatives are often a mix of compounds that are used together in cosmetics and commercial products such as shampoos, lotions, sunscreens, wet wipes, toothpaste, medicines, fabric softeners, cleaners and washing materials. Many of these preservatives release a toxic chemical called formaldehyde, which can also cause dermatitis.


Formaldehyde has recently been declared a potential carcinogen. It is a chemical that is used in many products in our environment and some sources may be surprising because it is so widespread, even at low levels, that it is almost impossible to avoid in our daily lives. Formaldehyde is not only a sensitizer, but also a potent irritant. Frequent or prolonged exposure may cause hypersensitivity, leading to the development of dermatitis through contact with products containing formaldehyde in the form of preservatives, or clothing made from fabrics that have been treated with it.


Dr Philippa Darbre and colleagues at the University of Reading carried out tests on samples of 20 different human breast tumours. Writing in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, they say they found traces of parabens in every sample. Their tests suggested the chemicals had seeped into the tissue after being applied to the skin. (2)

"This is the first study to show their accumulation in human tissues," said Dr Darbre. "It demonstrates that if people are exposed to these chemicals, then the chemicals will accumulate in their bodies."

In late 1998 John Sumpter's group at Brunel University, UK, published a paper identifying parabens as oestrogen mimics (Routledge et al., 1998). As mimics, this means that the chemicals act like the hormone oestrogen in the body, interfering with the body’s natural systems. The authors state:

"Given their use in a wide range of commercially available topical preparations, it is suggested that the safety in use of these chemicals should be reassessed, with particular attention being paid to estimation of the actual levels of systemic exposure of humans exposed to these chemicals. The acquisition of such data is a prerequisite to the derivation of reliable estimates of the possible human risk of exposure to parabens."


Phenoxyethanol is a preservative added to cosmetics, ointments, eardrops and vaccines. It is commonly used in toiletries and wipes, even in some products that claim to be natural. The manufacturers of this chemical describe the toxicology of phenoxyethanol as: -

“Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. May cause reproductive defects. Severe eye and skin irritant. “

Some research that was conducted by S. Bohn, A. J. Bircher in 2001 (3) at the Allergy Unit of the Dept. of Dermatology at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, found some hypersensitivity to phenoxyethanol. Including urticaria, hand eczema as well as generalized eczema in an 18-month-old boy within 24 hours after receiving the DPT (diphtheria, pertussus, tetanus) vaccine. Whilst the researchers consider the reactions to be very rare, it brings into question the suitability of this chemical as an ingredient in products used on the skin of babies.

Imidazolidinyl urea

Imidazolidinyl urea is the second most identified cosmetic preservative causing contact dermatitis according to The American Academy of Dermatology.
Imidazolidinyl urea is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative used in many cosmetics, toiletries, lotions and pharmaceutical preparations and is often found in preparations labelled as ‘hypoallergenic’. However, if you have sensitivity to Imidazolidinyl urea, these products are far from hypoallergenic and should be avoided, as it will cause dermatitis. Try to avoid other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives also known by the following names: Quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1,3-diol, diazolidinyl urea.

Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)

SLS is commonly used in shampoos, hair conditioners and shower gels.  It is a very harsh detergent used to make the products foam when used. SLS can cause irritation of the eyes, skin rashes and flaking skin, and possibly permanent damage to the eyes, especially in children. Research was conducted in the Department of Dermatology at the School of Medicine, University of California (4) on the ability of SLS to penetrate into the skin and underlying tissues. The research found that “ Sodium lauryl sulphate penetrated the skin directly to a depth of about 5-6 mm below the applied site. Epidermal levels of the compound after application of 1% aqueous solution for 24 hours were above threshold levels known to evoke skin irritation responses. Deeper underlying tissues may also have been exposed to high levels of the compound.” SLS reacts with other chemicals found in shampoos and cleansers to produce nitrates, which can enter the blood stream easily.

Chemicals in body care

Propylene glycol is a solvent used in cosmetics, hair care products, deodorants and after-shave. 
It is also the main ingredient in antifreeze and brake fluid and is considered to be a skin irritant causing dermatitis, especially in children. 

Polyethylene glycol (PEG), a related agent found in most skin cleansers, is a caustic used to dissolve grease and is the same substance found in oven cleaners.  

Isopropyl myristate , an alcohol used in hair rinses, hand lotions and fragrances, is also a solvent that dries the skin and hair, and creates cracks and fissures in the skin, which encourage bacterial growth.

Phthalates are a large family of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system. Hundreds of animal studies have demonstrated that phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system, especially the developing testes. Phthalates are used as a plastic softener and solvent in many different consumer products. They can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes, ingested when they contaminate food or when children bite or suck on plastic toys, and are inadvertently directly administered to patients from PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) medical devices.

The Environmental Working Group, Coming Clean and Health Care without Harm, contracted with a major national laboratory to test 72 named brands, off-the-shelf beauty products for the presence of phthalates. The lab found phthalates in 52 of the 72 products tested - or 72%, and more than one phthalate in 11 products. Only one of the products listed phthalates on the label. These products included hair products, deodorants and fragrances. In their report Aggregate Exposures to Phthalates in Humans it describes the failure of USA and EU regulators to address the health impacts of multiple exposures to phthalates from a variety of products.

According to one study carried out by the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, five percent of women of reproductive age in the USA, an estimated two million women, may be getting up to 20 times more of the phthalate DBP than the average person in the population. The highest exposures for women of childbearing age were above the federal safety standard, creating a risk of reproductive birth defects, according to animal studies considered relevant to humans.


The definition organic is defined by law - all organic agriculture, food production and processing is governed by a strict set of rules. Organic farmers, as far as possible, avoid using unnecessary chemical sprays such as pesticides and herbicides, and Organic standards ban the use of Genetically Modified technology. Organic farming is friendlier to the environment, so there is a much greater diversity of birds, butterflies and plants on organic farms. Food additives linked to asthma and heart disease, and many preservatives and aggressive health and environment damaging chemicals are banned under organic standards.

Any organic product sold in the United Kingdom must, by law, display an organic certification symbol or number. When you see an organic symbol, you can be sure that the product complies with minimum government standards for organics. These standards are set by the UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) and meet European and international standards. Each certification body has its own symbol and code number. The Soil Association organic symbol is the UK’s main certification mark, but different countries have different symbols, but generally, each country recognises each other’s organic standards. The symbol tells you that the product has met, and in some important areas, exceeded minimum government requirements. Organic standards are often reviewed and developed to continually raise the quality of organic food and organic non-food. Pesticide use is widespread in the world and responsible for some of the more persistent dioxins and furans in the environment. Making more organic choices in food and non-food products helps to reduce environmental pollution and our personal exposure to dioxins.

Genetically modified cotton

The science of genetically modified crops is in its early stages and long-term outcome is not yet certain. However, many people choose not to consume genetically modified foods because they are worried about the possible negative health effects. Over 50% of the world’s cotton is genetically modified and, unless products state that they are made with certified organic cotton, then it is likely that they are made from genetically modified cotton.

Endangered forests

Most of the world’s wood pulp used to make paper products, which includes tampons, sanitary pads, toilet paper and newspapers, comes from forests that have been ravaged by large pulping companies. The large scale ripping up of tress in logging devastates the landscape, destroys wildlife habitat and destroys the ecology of the soil leading to erosion and the desolation of landscapes. Unlike other manufacturers, we never use pulp from ancient North American forests. The pulp that is used in Natracare sanitary pads and liners comes from managed Scandinavian forests. This means that a continual planting and re-planting system is in place to ensure that every tree that is cut down is replaced by another.

Sanitary waste

Since 1985, the trend has been towards thinner sanitary pads using less wood-based pulp and increased use of synthetic super absorbents made from petroleum. Apertured plastic film is mostly used as a cover on sanitary pads and liners today, and is often called the " Dri-weave top sheet". In reality, it is simply just loaded polyethylene film - or plastic with holes in to you and me.

European and North American consumption of this type of sanitary pad is the highest in the world - more than a third of total worldwide consumption of 45 billion units - All eventually needing to be disposed of somewhere! Every year, in Britain alone, we would need to dig a hole 300 feet wide and 300 feet deep to bury the used sanitary pads and tampons that women throw away.

Unfortunately, this synthetic material is being used more and more in other products such as baby wipes, wet wipes, feminine wipes, tumble dryer cloths, diapers, incontinence pads and moist toilet tissues. No doubt, all ending their " useful lives " flushed down the toilet or in a landfill site.

In recent years, with the new development of biodegradable materials made from plant cellulose,
it is possible for these plastics to be replaced. This biodegradable material can be used for most products where plastics are being used to include: sanitary pads, liners, diapers and wet and dry wipes instead of the synthetics derived from petroleum used exclusively today.

Despite the environmental pressures of the early 90's, sanitary protection is still being made from more and more plastic materials. There is, therefore, the need to raise consumer awareness about the proper disposal of these products. Most people are not even aware of the high loading of plastics in the products they use, and it does not help that manufacturers of these products are unwilling to print a full list of the materials they use on their packaging.

Disposal of used sanitary products is either by flushing out to sea, incineration, or depositing in landfill sites. Various pollutants, including dioxins, are continually deposited in the sea through sewage waste and air pollution from incinerators. This not only irreversibly damages and contaminates fish and other sea life; it inevitably results in human exposure to these toxins when we consume these plants and animals.

Most women are aware that flushing sanitary pads results in the contamination of our oceans, rivers, and many are prepared to dispose of their pads along with the domestic waste which is either incinerated or buried in landfill sites. Incineration is a major cause of pollution worldwide. However, the alternative of burying rubbish in the ground is not much of an improvement because the plastics used in sanitary pads and liners and tampon applicators do not biodegrade at all, and will remain in the environment unchanged for hundreds of years.

For many years, Natracare has done much to lessen the environmental impact of sanitary products by producing a full range of sanitary pads and liners made from biodegradable, totally chlorine-free cellulose and Bioplastics which are biodegradable and compostable under the correct conditions, and are safe for sceptic tanks.


When women develop irritation problems such as thrush, vaginitis or soreness, they are always advised by doctors and health specialists to wear cotton underwear, but without thinking, they are unwittingly continuing to use their usual brand of feminine hygiene made from loaded synthetics every month during their period. Women suffering from skin allergies, irritation, soreness and itching, may find their symptoms are worse during their period, due to the synthetic and plastic ingredients in most sanitary products. Many gynaecologists advise such women to change to all-cotton products in order to avoid the synthetics and chemicals commonly used in hygiene products. After making the change to Natracare organic cotton tampons and natural totally chlorine-free pads, many of these women have found relief from their symptoms.


It is important to get a diagnosis of Endometriosis early to prevent damage to the reproductive system.
According to the Endometriosis Association,

“Endometriosis is a hormonal and immune disease in which tissue like that found in the lining of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus in other parts of the body.  Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of pelvic pain and can lead to infertility, hysterectomy, and increased risk of developing certain cancers.  Dioxin is directly correlated with an increased incidence of endometriosis, according to a 1992 study (5) on rhesus monkeys exposed to TCDD for four years. The monkeys also showed immune abnormalities similar to those observed in women with endometriosis.  Endometriosis affects girls and women from preteen to post-menopause."

In 1999, Osamu Tsutsumi, Professor of Gynaecology at Tokyo University Hospital, Japan, carried out tests on the effects of dioxin on the human reproductive system, which showed that women tested who were suffering from endometriosis had high levels of dioxin in the body.

Toxic Shock Syndrome ( TSS)

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but fatal disease caused by a particular type of bacteria that can produce toxins in the body. The symptoms of TSS come on fast and are often severe. Menstrual TSS has been linked to the use of super-absorbent and synthetics in tampons. (1)

Results of a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynaecology , suggest that the use of 100% cotton tampons may reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome compared with tampons that contain rayon. The paper states that, “The incidence of reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome has declined since the removal of high absorbency fibres from tampons, such as polyacrylate rayon, polyester and carboxymethyl-cellulose (CMC). However, the disease continues to occur in young menstruating women using the newer less absorbent tampons made of viscose rayon with and without cotton.”

The study was carried out on 20 tampon varieties, including Natracare 100% cotton tampons and concluded that all-cotton tampons did not produce the dangerous TSS toxin from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, while other tampons did.

The summary to the paper stated, “All-cotton tampons did not product TSST-1. This is likely because cotton provides fewer factors to favour TSST-1 production compared with fibres previously removed from tampons (CMC, polyester, polyacrylate rayon)….“In sum, women who are without protective levels of antibody to TSST-1 and use non all-cotton tampons are at the greater risk of TSS.”

In order to advance a well-balanced view of all the pieces to the puzzle concerning menstrual health, we pride ourselves on embracing independent research so that women are afforded the opportunity to make informed choices about sanitary protection. Natracare believes that women should still continue to be vigilant and become familiar with the symptoms of TSS. Read carefully the tampon instruction leaflets found in the packs before starting to use tampons. The symptoms of TSS can occur suddenly, and at any time during menstruation. Be aware of these symptoms, which need not be present all at the same time.

• sudden high fever (102°F, 39°C or more) • nausea or vomiting • diarrhoea • headache • sore throat • dizziness • fainting or near fainting • rashes that look like sun-burn (skin peeling may occur days later) • muscular pain.

If you get any of these symptoms, you must remove your tampon and do not use any more. Get immediate medical attention and be sure to inform your doctor that you are menstruating and using tampons and that you are concerned about TSS.


(1) Propensity of Tampons and Barrier Contraceptives to Amplify Staphylococcus Aureus Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin by Tierno Jnr, Philip M and Hanna, B A, The Journal of Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2:140-145, 1994.

(2) Darbre PD Aljarrah A, Miller WR, Coldham NG, Sauer MJ, Pope GS. Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. J Appl Toxicol. 2004 Jan-Feb;24(1):5-13. Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, School of Animal and Microbial Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AJ, UK

(3) Phenoxyethanol-induced urticaria by S. Bohn, A. J. Bircher Allergy Unit, Dept. Dermatology, University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland. Accepted for publication 3 May 2001, Allergy 2001: 56:922-923

(4 ) Quantification of sodium lauryl sulfate penetration into the skin and underlying tissues after topical application--pharmacological and toxicological implications by Patil. S, Singh. P, Sarasour. K, Maibach. H. J. Pharm. Sci.; VOL 84 ISS Oct 1995, P1240-1244, (REF 40) Dept. of Dermatology, School of Medicine, Surge 110, Univ. of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

(5) Rier, S.E. et al. (1993) "Endometriosis in Rhesus Monkeys (Macada Mulatta) Following Chronic Exposure to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin". Fundamental and Applied Toxicology, vol.21, pp433-441.

(6) Field, T., Henteleff, T., Hernandez-Reif M., Martinez, E., Mavunda, K., Kuhn C., & Schanberg S. (1998). Children with asthma have improved pulmonary functions after massage therapy. Journal of Pediatrics, 132, 854-858.

(7) Schachner, L., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Duarte, A., & Krasnegor, J. (1998). Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms Decrease in Children Following Massage Therapy. Pediatric Dermatology, 15, 390-395.

(8) Hernandez-Reif, M., Ironson, G., Field, T., Largie, S., Deigo, M., Mora, D., & Bornstein, J. (In Review). Children with Down Syndrome improved in motor function and muscle tone following massage therapy. Journal of Early Intervention.

(9) Cullen, C., Field, T., Escalona, A., & Hartshorn, K. (2000). Father-infants interactions are enhanced by massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 164, 41-47.

(10) Field, T., T., Schanberg, S., Davalos, M. & Malphurs, J. (1996). Massage with oil has more positive effects on newborn infants. Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 11, 73-78.


Each one of us needs to take care of our environment
Each one of us needs to take care of our environment

What do these chemicals really do?
What do these chemicals really do?