Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been associated with several toxic effects and a recent study appearing in the Journal of Women’s Health suggests that douching may contribute to higher VOC exposure in women. VOCs are used to retain fragrances, and since douches often contain fragrances, these materials may be unrecognized sources of exposures.
The study included data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2001 and 2004. Participants were restricted to women aged 20 to 49 years with self-reported data on feminine hygiene product (FHP) use (n = 2432). Information about usage of feminine products (tampons, sanitary napkins, vaginal douches, sprays, powders, wipes/towelettes, and other products) was self-reported. Blood samples were collected from a subsample of participants (approximately one-third of the population. Reproductive health survey data were collected via interviews on the day of the health examination. Demographic information was also collected, including race/ethnicity and participants were classified into white, black, Mexican American, other Hispanic, and other racial/ethnic group.
Considering use of FHPs in the past month, non-Hispanic white women reported significantly higher use of tampons, whereas non-Hispanic black women had significantly higher use of vaginal douche, feminine spray, feminine powder, wipes/towelettes, and other products. Non-Hispanic black women also used vaginal douching more frequently than other racial/ethnic groups.