Tampons do not look toxic. They come in decorative floral packaging and most are made from a soft and clean-looking cotton mixture. However, there may be another side to the products that promise liberation from the feminine inconvenience known as menstruation. There are health risks associated with the conventional tampons and other feminine hygiene products. Although the subject requires more research, these five facts alone may be reason to ditch conventional tampons.

 1. It can be easier to absorb chemicals through feminine hygiene products than ingesting the same chemicals. When ingesting something, the body utilizes an elimination and metabolic processes than can help protect it from harm. However, the chemicals found in tampons are directly absorbed, and reach the bloodstream unimpeded, allowing 10 to 80 percent more absorption. Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) Erin Switalski gave an interview to Connect via email. “In terms of focusing on feminine hygiene products, this is a critical issue that has been overlooked,” Switalski said. Women’s Voices for the Earth is an advocacy group for women by women. The organization aims to report on and reduce the chemicals women are commonly exposed to. “We have chosen to focus our efforts on the toxins that women bring directly into their homes, or put directly on their bodies,” Switalski said.

2. Also, tampons are not independently tested for chemicals and other harmful substances. Many feminine hygiene brands contain substances known to be carcinogens, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors.

3. Non-organic cotton is likely to contain residue from pesticides and fungicides. “The fact is there are some estimated 80,000 chemicals in use in the U.S. and only about 200 have been thoroughly evaluated for safety,” Switalski said. “Of those that have been tested, they have mainly been looked at for their short-term impacts on adult males. Of course, women are different. Sadly, women’s health problems are on the rise, and toxic chemical exposure is playing a role.”

4. Most cotton or rayon used in tampons is bleached and/or dyed to achieve a white color. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the presence of dioxins in tampons, a byproduct of this process, the results are not made public. Even trace dioxin levels can cause abnormal tissue growth, abnormal cell growth, immune system suppression, and hormonal and endocrine system disruption.

5. Feminine hygiene product companies are not required to disclose every substance found in tampons. Tampons and other similar products, because they are labeled “medical devices” by the FDA, can contain unknown ingredients. “We tested Always pads in 2014 and found ingredients like acetone, styrene, and chloroform,” Switalski said. “We found octoxynol-9, a spermicide in Summer’s Eve wash, but it wasn’t listed as such on the label. Women have a right to know what’s in these products, and a right to know that they are safe. . . We tell women to call the manufacturer and tell them they want to know what’s in their products and want to see health research used to determine safety.”

Is there an affordable solution?

Organic tampons can be more expensive than other brands if bought in stores, but can be cheaper than regular brands if bought online, especially in bulk. Feminine hygiene pads are susceptible to the same problems occurring in tampons but may be safer because they do not promote as much absorption of harmful chemicals. 

“We recommend that women look for products with ingredients listings,” Switalski said. “In general, it’s best to avoid scented products.” 

Other alternatives include reusable cloth pads and underwear or menstrual cups. “They cost more upfront, but can end up saving money in the long-term,” Switalski said about common feminine hygiene product alternatives. 

Furthermore, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York has been introducing legislation since 2008 that requires studies to be conducted on tampons safety. She and others continue to work for transparency from the companies that produce all feminine care products.

Women’s Voices for the Earth is also trying to combat the problem. “We are pushing for legislation that would require ingredient disclosure for feminine products,” Switalski said. “We need more women to join us in this effort.”

To become involved in the efforts of WVE visit https://act.myngp.com/Forms/-7648817940432615424

Information for this article gathered from: https://menstrualcupreviews.net/truth-about-tampons/, http://time.com/4422774/tampons-toxic-cancer/, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/feminine-hygiene-products_b_3359581.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/23/tampon-unsafe-chemicals_n_7130174.html, http://www.womensvoices.org, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/health/whats-in-your-pad-or-tampon/index.html, https://maloney.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-maloney-introduces-bill-protect-women-toxic-shock-syndrome

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