Women who use feminine care products called douches may increase their exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates–and black women may be at particularly high risk due to frequent use. Public health officials advise against the use of douching products, which can hide vaginal infections and lead to other serious health problems. Despite that, douching products are still a popular item on the drug store shelf, and are disproportionately used by black women.
“This study suggests, for the first time, that vaginal douches may increase a woman’s exposure to phthalates, chemicals that may alter hormone action and are associated with serious health problems,” says senior author of the study Ami Zota, ScD, MS.
“These findings raise questions about the health and safety of vaginal douches and other fragranced products used in and around the vaginal area.”
This study did not directly tie phthalates in douching products to health problems in women–additional research will have to make that direct connection. Still, the research did find that vaginal douching may increase a woman’s exposure to DEP and that’s a troubling finding that needs to be explored further.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other health experts recommend against douching because this practice has been associated with increased risks of vagina infection, pelvic inflammatory disease, problems during pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Now, this study adds the worry that douching may also expose women to chemicals that can lead to health problems later in life or can harm their developing baby–if women are pregnant while using such products.
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