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Gov’t declares that all sanitary pads are safe

Sept 29,2017
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Women’s sanitary pads on the shelves at a major mart in Seoul on Thursday. [YONHAP]
The government on Thursday declared that all sanitary pads and panty liners on the market pose no health risks to consumers after it inspected a total of 666 products manufactured locally or imported since 2014.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced that the level of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, found among the products was low enough that it posed no health risks to consumers.

Lee Young-gyu, a deputy director of the inspection team, said the inspection was set to extract the maximum amount of VOCs from the 666 products. “Under the assumption that these substances were 100 percent absorbed to the body, we found that they pose no health threats,” he said.

The finding showed that due to the low level of VOCs found in the pads, a woman who uses 7.5 sanitary pads per day for seven days a month throughout her life will not be exposed to health risks.

To ensure a speedy inspection the authorities selected 10 VOCs that are thought to contain more toxic elements than the remaining 74. Among the inspected VOCs were benzene and toluene. The ministry said it will complete tests for the other 74 VOCs by the end of the year.

Of the 666 tested products, 496 items were sanitary pads while 170 were panty liners. The ministry also inspected 10 diapers and found no substances harmful to the human body.

The ministry said it decided to test for the 10 VOCs as public concerns over the safety of sanitary pads rose significantly in recent months after a civic group, the Korean Women’s Environmental Network, revealed in March that five sanitary pads and five panty liners contained VOCs after conducting a toxicity test.

The civic group said at the time that sanitary pads from the brand Lilian contained the largest quantity of VOCs among the products tested. Since the March announcement, a growing number of consumers reported what appeared to be side effects linked to VOCs. Amid escalating consumer concerns over potentially carcinogenic sanitary pads, users of Lilian filed a 9 billion won ($7.97 million) class action suit earlier this month.

VOCs are substances that are naturally released from a product at room temperature, some of which can be harmful to the body while some are even known to be beneficial, according to the ministry.

The civic group that fist raised the health risk allegation disputed the finding on Thursday, pointing out that only 10 VOCs were tested, leaving the other 74 VOCs untested, and that the inspection was rushed.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]