Most American women use tampons, an estimated 70% of us . The average woman will use approximately 17,000 tampons in her life . This is a lot of tampons, so it seems we should really know if these little plugs are safe.
First, the vaginal tract tissue in contact with a tampon is not like skin. It is a mucosal lining that is highly vascular and permeable. It is being studied as way to deliver medications, because it is more permeable than intestinal lining . This highly vascular tissue allows absorption almost directly into the bloodstream. Since vaginas are not like skin or the intestinal tract, even small traces of chemicals could have a significant impact on a woman’s long-term health . This is why we women need to be concerned.
In fairness, studies have found the vagina can be selectively permeable to different medications. Meaning it can be highly absorbent to somethings, but not others. So basically, we don’t know which chemicals or pesticides in tampons will be absorbed by the vaginal tract.
Studies Find Pesticides in tampons & more
Recent independent studies have found a toxic variety of chemical residues on feminine hygiene products. The FDA recommends pesticide free fibers be used, but it’s not mandatory . These findings demonstrate manufacturers are not listening.
- A 2013 study commissioned by Natural Savy found 8 pesticides in O.B. tampons .
- A recent study by the University of La Plata in Argentina found 85% of tampons tested positive for glyphosate . The notorious weed killer, aka Round Up.
- A French magazine, 60 Million, had a variety of pads, liners, and tampons tested. They found dioxin, furan, glyphosate, and other pesticides . Their findings included low level glyphosate detected in organic panty liners too. The organic manufacturer responded diligently and recalled 3,100 panty liners .
List of Pesticides in Tampons
(found by the above independent analyses)
Malaoxon & Malathion 1ppm: carcinogen, endocrine disruptor, and damages DNA. Very toxic to bees and aquatic life .
Dichlofluanid 1 ppm: considered moderately toxic to humans, and highly toxic to aquatic life .
Mecarbam 6 ppm: highly toxic, crosses placental barrier, inhibits nervous system function .
Procymidone 37 ppm: relatively high in O.B., causes reproductive and developmental damage. May cause liver damage. Highly toxic if absorbed through skin, inhaled, or ingested .
Methidathion 5ppm: Highly toxic to all life. Interferes with breathing and nervous system. Toxic if absorbed through skin. Banned in Europe, listed as probable carcinogen by the EPA .
Fensulfothion 5 ppm: Highly toxic to mammals and aquatic life. Can causing cramping, vomiting, blurred vision, chest tightness…..
Pyrethrum 66 ppm: Natural insecticide, listed as carcinogen with EPA .
Piperonyl Butoxide 1 ppm: Listed as a possible carcinogen with EPA, and is listed with EU as a possible endocrine disruptor .
Glyophosate  : A "probable" cancer causing pesticide. I will try to refrain from my soap box, but if you are uninformed please look into it. We can’t deny cancer, autism, leaky gut, and auto-immune diseases are exploding in our population. There are numerous independent studies of the destruction this herbicide is having on our health. For an overview start here.
Dioxin : chemical compounds, some types are produced from things like forest fires. They also include the banned PCBs. Dioxins are found as a chemical byproduct of the bleaching process. Even with chlorine free bleach low level dioxins have been detected. Per the EPA, it takes decades to breakdown. In their own words “Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones" .
Per Women's Voices, a 2002 study examined dioxin levels in four different brands of tampons. The study found small but detectable levels of dioxins and furans. The study concluded that the health risk from exposure to dioxins and furans from tampon was insignificant compared to the risk of exposure to dioxins and furans people face from eating food .
Furan : The word furan is sometimes used interchangeably with the word dioxin. Per the FDA they are separate substances. Furan is listed with Health and Human Services as cancer causing . Both Dioxins and Furans were found in tampons .
Low levels make it ok?
Most of the chemical byproducts and pesticides in tampons were detected at lower levels than the food we eat. For this reason, it is argued you should be more concerned with your food than your tampons. Guess what I am concerned with both!
It’s an illogical argument. These chemicals accumulate in the body, so common sense dictates the more we expose ourselves to them the more incidence of disease. We don’t choose to eat these toxins, and I don't choose to wad them in my vagina either, not intentionally at least.
Exposure is cumulative, so the more ways we can eliminate these harmful substances from our lives the better. Women will use a lot of tampons in a lifetime, an estimated 17,000 . The vagina is vascular and more permeable than the intestine, so even low levels is cause for concern.
Additionally, these products are harmful to the environment. Buying these products supports industries using unclean substances and manufacturing that produces toxic byproducts. We women use a lot tampons, and these chemicals are poisoning our earth. We haven’t even mentioned applicators or packaging.
So, what can we do to avoid chemicals & pesticides in tampons?
Choose organic, as much as possible in both food and products. As a single mom on a budget I know organic can be hard to afford, but adjust where you can. Think of food as medicine, and there are better safer options for our periods. There's even cool options like monthly organic tampon subscription box like Kali, who knew, I guess there's a subscription box for everything.
Tell manufacturers! Toxic chemicals & pesticides in our tampons is not ok, at the very least we have the right to know what we are subjecting our bodies to.
Petition to sign:
- Currently 267,000 people have signed the petition requesting Proctor & Gamble to release what’s in their tampons, you can sign petition here.
I recently made the switch to the cup. I currently use the Luna cup. After child birth tampons became uncomfortable. I now prefer the cup to tampons, because even with a heavy flow I never leak. They are reusable, which saves money and is less waste.
I'm not completely sold on the safety of silicone. Again, additives can pose a risk, and once again manufactures are not required to disclose this information. This is the claim on the Luna website:
"The Lunacups, menstrual cup is made from FDA compliant, medical grade, hypo-allergenic silicone, and contains no harmful chemicals or additives. It is non-absorbent so it does not upset the delicate balance inside the vagina. It does not cause dryness and does not upset the balance of your body so Toxic Shock Syndrome is not possible."
Also pads and panty liners have a lot of nasty chemicals too (more here). I am going to stay with the cup, but may switch to the natural rubber. However, if you have a latex allergy this would not be wise. The cup is more comfortable for me, and I believe is a better healthier alternative to conventional tampons. Read the rest of this article, to find out what tampons are made of.
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