Public restrooms are everywhere, from airports to universities and office buildings, yet how often do we consider their impact on public health? Dr. Aungel Evans, a distinguished OB/GYN specialist, recently illuminated an overlooked issue that affects us all: the improper disposal of menstrual products in public restrooms. This isn't just a women's health concern; it's a broader public health crisis.
The Universal Risk of Bodily Fluids
Dr. Evans emphasizes that period blood carries similar risks to other bodily fluids. Blood-borne pathogens like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and MRSA can be transmitted through these fluids, even through microscopic entry points in the skin (CDC). This isn't just an issue for women; it's a concern for sanitation workers, men who share these public spaces, and essentially anyone who comes into contact with improperly disposed of menstrual products.
"The risk with period blood is actually similar to the risks with other bodily fluids... These pathogens can be transmitted from these fluids to another person and typically they have to have an entry point so it could be a cut in the skin, an abrasion, and not an obvious one. These are small entry points, right, because these are microscopic pathogens." - Dr. Aungel Evans
The Inadequacy of Toilet Paper
Many people believe that wrapping a menstrual product in toilet paper is sufficient for safe disposal. Dr. Evans debunks this myth, stating that toilet paper cannot fully contain or conceal the contents of menstrual products. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health reveals that toilet paper is often an ineffective barrier against microbial contamination (Journal of Environmental Health).
"When you decide to dispose of a feminine hygiene product such as a pad with toilet paper you are still very exposed... And so yeah, there is just all sorts of exposure opportunities when you're dealing with how these public restrooms are handling these products." - Dr. Aungel Evans
The MaskIT Revolution
Enter MaskIT, a game-changing solution for menstrual item disposal. MaskIT's design covers the hand, allowing for secure and hygienic disposal of menstrual products. Dr. Evans describes it as a simple yet innovative solution to a significant problem that has been largely ignored.
"The MaskIT design covers your hand you're able to then grab the product without being exposed and then securely discard the product. So really just minimizing the exposure to the blood and the potential blood-borne pathogens is what really makes it unique." - Dr. Aungel Evans
Why This Matters
Improper disposal of menstrual products isn't just a "women's issue." It's a public health concern that affects everyone, from customers to custodial staff and CEOs. According to the World Health Organization, poor sanitation can lead to the spread of gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory infections, and even contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance (WHO) in public restrooms and beyond.
The Academic Blind Spot
What's most surprising is that even Dr. Evans, with her extensive expertise in women's health, admitted that her training never covered the real-world experience of disposing of menstrual products. This sentiment is echoed in academic literature, where the focus often remains on reproductive health, overlooking the practical aspects of menstrual hygiene (PubMed).
"In my training in my formative years when the Health Sciences it was like you have your period to try to get pregnant, moving on. Right? Nothing about the actual experience of having a period, using products, disposing of products never came up." - Dr. Aungel Evans
The Call to Action For All Public Restrooms
Dr. Evans' insights serve as a wake-up call for all of us. Whether you're a facility manager, a healthcare provider, or a concerned citizen, it's time to elevate the hygiene standards of public restrooms. A report by the American Restroom Association emphasizes the need for improved restroom design and maintenance to enhance public health (American Restroom Association).
The conversation with Dr. Aungel Evans opens our eyes to a hidden but significant public health issue. It's time to shift our focus and invest in solutions like MaskIT that not only improve women's experiences but also safeguard public health. Awareness is the first step toward impactful change, and it's a step we must all take together.
By acknowledging and addressing this overlooked issue, we can collectively contribute to a safer, healthier public environment for everyone. After all, public health begins with awareness, and awareness begins with conversations like these.