A recent study by Dr. Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, found that women who use the feminine care products douches may increase their exposure to phthalates. Phthalates are potentially harmful industrial chemicals used in a number of personal care products, and have been linked to health problems including developmental and behavioral issues in children exposed to the chemicals in the womb.
Dr. Zota, her colleagues at Milken Institute SPH and the study’s co-author from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), studied 739 women age 20 to 49 and found that douching was associated with higher urine levels of a metabolite of the phthalate DEP. Further, those women who douched more frequently had the highest exposure. The study also found that Black women and Latino women had a higher risk for phthalate exposure because they reported using the products more frequently than White women.
This study did not directly tie phthalates in douching products to health problems in women. Additional research will need to be conducted to make that direct connection.
The study, “Vaginal douching and racial/ethnic disparities in phthalate exposures among reproductive-aged women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004,” was published in the journal Environmental Health.