A new study claims that feminine hygiene products for vaginal douching may expose users to potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates.
Douching can be harmful to women - Study finds
Researchers did urine tests to detect phthalate exposure in 739 women who were surveyed about their use of douches and other feminine care products.
The more women douched, the higher their exposure to a form of diethyl phthalate (DEP). Women in the study ranged in age from 20 to 49, and more than half were overweight or obese.
According to lead study author Ami Zota, a researcher at the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University,
“Phthalates are chemicals of concern for women’s health because they are suspected endocrine disruptors and can alter the action of important hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones,”
Douching is generally discouraged amongst women by doctors owing to risks such as bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications and potentially cervical cancer.
According to Zota, “douching is not medically required" because "a healthy vagina has an effective self-cleaning system.”
In the study, roughly one third of black women said they douched at least once a month, as did 11% of white and Mexican American women.
20% of black women reported douching at least twice a month, compared with just 7% of white participants and 3% of Mexican Americans in the study.
It was found that women who reported douching at least once in the past month had 52% higher concentrations of a form of DEP in their urine.
For those who douched at least twice a month, urinary concentrations of a form of DEP were 152% higher than for non users.
Researchers, however, found no link between DEP and other feminine hygiene products such as tampons, sanitary napkins, powders, sprays or towelettes.
They also found no connection between douching or other hygiene products and exposure to a form of DnBP.
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