Lo Loestrin Fe is a prescription birth control pill, and one of the most widely used contraceptive pills in the United States. The cost of this pill ranges from approximately $0 to $200 for a one month pack depending on an individual’s insurance coverage. However, the cost which this pill imposes on the environment surmounts the monetary cost of this pill irreparably. The ingredients used to make a pack of Lo Loestrin Fe are extremely toxic to the environment, and the severe effects of this birth control pill on the health of the women who rely on this method of contraceptive are equally unsettling. The Lo Loestrin company is owned by Allergan Pharmaceuticals International. Though Allergan appears to be concerned with their sustainable practices and environmental impact, their lack of transparency in regards to the severe risk factors of this birth control pill on the environment say otherwise.
Active Ingredients: Norethindrone acetate, ethinyl estradiol, ferrous fumarate
Inactive ingredients: Alpha tocopherol, FD&C blue No.1, lactose monohydrate, magnesium stearate, mannitol, microcrystalline cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium starch glycolate, spearmint flavor, sucralose, Vitamin E
Nearly all of the ingredients used to make the hormonal birth control pill Lo Loestrin Fe are known environmental toxins. The primary active ingredient in Lo Loestrin Fe is noethindrone acetate. This synthetic progestin is flagged as an irritant, a health hazard, and an environmental hazard by the National Library of Medicine. Noethindrone acetate’s carcinogenicity makes it potentially cancerous and this synthetic progestin is also very toxic for marine life. The second active ingredient, ethinyl estradiol is also a marine toxin. Aquatic organisms come into contact with this hormone when birth control pills such as Lo Loestrin Fe are released as waste into aquatic ecosystems. Water becomes contaminated by these hormones when such birth control pills are not disposed of properly. Because fish have a greater number of oestrogen receptors than do humans, they are especially vulnerable to these hormones that affect both their behavior and their genetics. The final active ingredient, ferrous fumarate, is also toxic to marine organisms. Ferrous fumerate is a type of iron. It can clog and inflame the respiratory organs of marine life.
On top of these harmful active ingredients, even the blue die used to color Lo Loestrin Fe pills has been tested on animals.
The ingredient list provided by Lo Loestrin does include health warnings pertaining to the women who will take the pill. However, no warnings are included about the toxicity of these ingredients when they enter the natural environment in uncontrolled ways.
Lo Loestrin Fe is a product of the Pharmaceutical company Allergan. Allergan has issued a Safety Data Sheet on Lo Loestren Fe pills. This document does contain a statement about the environmental hazards of the product: “Studies indicate Ethinyl Estradiol can cause feminization in males and disturbances in fecundity. Progesterone hormones can cause harm to aquatic organisms. Large quantities of this product released to the aquatic and terrestrial environment may have an adverse effect.” This statement, however, is not advertised on the Lo Loestrin site and nor are proper disposal methods of the product.
Lo Loestrin does not provide information on how they produce their hormonal birth control pills.
Like most standard birth control pills, Lo Loestrin Fe contains two types of female hormones: estrogen and progestin. As mentioned above, the estrogen hormone within this pill is ethinyl estradiol and the progestin is norethindrone acetate. These hormones within the pill are man-made. Such synthetic hormones are manufactured on a large scale. Given that these ingredients are not naturally sourced and are rather mass produced by pharmaceutical companies, the production process requires the handling of toxic substances. It is crucial that manufacturers of these hormones take extreme caution when dealing with waste given the severe consequences that result when natural environments are contaminated by these hormones. Lo Loestrin must be conscious of their production process for this reason, and more transparency is crucial in order to grasp the sustainability of this company.
Lo Loestrin is trademarked by Allergan Pharmaceuticals International. Lo Loestrin Fe is the sole product of Lo Loestrin. Allergan devotes a portion of their online site to disclosing their performance and goals in relation to sustainable practices and environmentalism. In 2016, Allergan set a goal of reducing their environmental impact by 20% by the year 2020. The first three steps they outline to achieve this goal, however, are unrelated to sustainability. These two steps include “abiding by [their] Social Contract with patients” by making treatment accessible and affordable, “maintaining [their] employee injury/illness rate within top quartile of performance compared to [their peers],” and “Increasing [their] employee engagement in our safety programs.” The fact that these goals pertaining to reducing the company’s environmental impact are completely unrelated to the company’s environmental impact is quite telling of Allergan’s devotion to sustainability. The list does eventually address goals related to the environment such as reducing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as their total waste. It is not clear whether or not Allergan has achieved their “20/20 Challenge” goals given that they have not yet released the corporate responsibility report for the year 2020. Allergan releases corporate responsibility reports each year that include their goals and accomplishments related to sustainability. These reports, however, seem to be more for show than for authentic reasons. The safety data sheet released by Allergan pertaining to Lo Loestrin Fe includes an environmental precaution to prevent the hormonal pill from “entering sewer or confined spaces, waterways, soil or public waters.” The data sheet also warns of the ecotoxicity of the product, stating that “This product may be harmful to aquatic and terrestrial organisms” and “all releases to terrestrial, atmospheric and aquatic environments should be avoided” given that Lo Loestrin Fe can lead to the feminization of aquatic organisms as well as lowered fecundity and changes in courtship behavior in fish when ingested. This information is extremely important given the severe effects which the hormones in Lo Loestrin Fe can have on marine organisms if their environment becomes contaminated as a result of improper disposal of these contraceptive pills. This data sheet which contains environmental warnings, however, is not linked on the Lo Loestrin webpage. It is does not come up in google searches for the Lo Loestrin Fe ingredient list, and I rather only stumbled across it when I did a google search for “Lo Loestrin Fe environmental impact.” Given the severity of Lo Loestrin Fe’s environmental impact, it is s crucial that these facts be well advertised by Allergan, and this requires transparency on Lo Loestrin’s online site and the product packaging itself. To demonstrate a true dedication to the environment, Allergan and Lo Loestrin must advertise proper disposal methods of this contraceptive product. Given that Lo Loestrin and Allergan seem to conceal this information, however, it is unfortunately clear that sustainability and environmentalism are not of their utmost and genuine concern.