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Vaginal douching and racial/ethnic disparities in phthalates exposures among reproductive-aged women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004.
Published Web Locationhttp://www.ehjournal.net/content/pdf/s12940-015-0043-6.pdf
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BackgroundDiethyl phthalate (DEP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) are industrial chemicals found in consumer products that may increase risk of adverse health effects. Although use of personal care/beauty products is known to contribute to phthalate exposure, no prior study has examined feminine hygiene products as a potential phthalate source. In this study, we evaluate whether vaginal douching and other feminine hygiene products increase exposure to phthalates among US reproductive-aged women.
MethodsWe conducted a cross-sectional study on 739 women (aged 20-49) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004 to examine the association between self-reported use of feminine hygiene products (tampons, sanitary napkins, vaginal douches, feminine spray, feminine powder, and feminine wipes/towelettes) with urinary concentrations of monoethyl phthalate (MEP) and mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP), metabolites of DEP and DnBP, respectively.
ResultsA greater proportion of black women than white and Mexican American women reported use of vaginal douches, feminine spray, feminine powder, and wipes/towelettes in the past month whereas white women were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to report use of tampons (p < 0.05). Douching in the past month was associated with higher concentrations of MEP but not MnBP. No other feminine hygiene product was significantly associated with either MEP or MnBP. We observed a dose-response relationship between douching frequency and MEP concentrations (p(trend) < 0.0001); frequent users (≥2 times/month) had 152.2% (95% confidence intervals (CI): (68.2%, 278.3%)) higher MEP concentrations than non-users. We also examined whether vaginal douching mediates the relationship between race/ethnicity and phthalates exposures. Black women had 48.4% (95% CI: 16.8%, 88.6%; p = 0.0002) higher MEP levels than white women. Adjustment for douching attenuated this difference to 26.4% (95% CI:-0.9%, 61.2%; p = 0.06). Mediation effects of douching were statistically significant for black-white differences (z = 3.71, p < 0.001) but not for differences between Mexican Americans and whites (z = 1.80, p = 0.07).
ConclusionsVaginal douching may increase exposure to DEP and contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in DEP exposure. The presence of environmental chemicals in vaginal douches warrants further examination.
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