[THE INVESTOR] Complaints about unexpected side effects from using sanitary pads have spiked since mid-August when information regarding the materials used in these products were released, according to the Food and Drug Safety Ministry on Sept. 6.
Since Aug. 21, a total of 74 complaints have been lodged with the Korea Institute of Drug Safety and Risk Management concerning the use of menstrual care products. There were no complaints regarding menstrual care products reported before Aug. 20.
The complaints mostly focused on the use of Lilian pads, which were named as one of the brands of products containing toxins. Side effects that were reported included changes in menstrual cycles and volume.
The complaints were sent by the Food and Drug Safety Ministry to a committee on sanitary pad safety, made up of independent experts for further study. The committee will be responsible for leading tests on existing products in the market and creating new sets of standards for specific toxins that are found in sanitary products.
Meanwhile, a local women’s rights group announced last month that it had collected complaints from over 3,000 women over three days last month after the safety study was made public.
Additional information released by the Food and Drug Safety Ministry showed that all of the top brands of sanitary pads being sold in Korea contained toxic chemicals.
These types of chemicals have not yet been scientifically linked to health risks for women, but the news has led to more consumers turning to organic cotton products or buying menstrual cups directly from overseas sellers.
Sales of cotton pads in the two weeks following initial news reports about Lilian pads rose 385 percent on-year at discount retailer E-mart. Sales of menstrual cups to Korean consumers from health products website Vitatra rose 470 percent compared to the previous week, in the week following the reports. Menstrual cups have not yet been certified for sale in Korea.
“This case demonstrates how crucial it is for consumers to have the right information,” said Park Myung-hee, who heads the consumer rights group Korea Consumer’s Network.
“Women could not come forward before because they did not know that it was possible that these products contained toxins, but that did not mean there was no risk. Rather than taking action only on products that create public outcry, safety agencies need to make more of an effort to identify risks ahead of time and engage with the public.”
By Won Ho-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)