Toxic Tampons
Education, Go Green, Personal Care, Question of the Day, The Great Outdoors, Toxins

Toxic Tampons?

When the time came to finally take action and use a tampon, the experience was nothing short of horrifying and extremely confusing. If having your period was not enough of a shock, you had to figure out how to use one of these things with hope that it would actually come back out! But the real anxiety came when you carefully read the instructions (being the good students we are) only to find the following warning:

 

Toxic Shock

 

A Fatal Disease!?? And here we just thought we were avoiding the embarrassment and pain of using a pad so that we could actually face our fellow classmates without fear of a diaper butt or new-found red skirt!

So what exactly did you do about it? If you were like me, you read the warning, pondered over the risk and based on the fact that you didn’t actually know of anyone personally who actually contracted TSS, you continued on your way constantly pushing your fears to the wayside… (besides, did we know there was another choice?)

Now after many years of using conventional tampons, it becomes glaringly clear that our intuition was right all along. Not just because there is an actual risk of developing TSS, but because there are actually more side effects as well. Let’s learn all about toxic tampons.

 

 

Think About It- A Tampon Sits INSIDE you for Hours! 

 

Of all the personal hygiene products, the tampon raises the most important health issues because it sits for hours surrounded by some of the female body’s most porous membranes. “The vagina absorbs quite readily,” says Dr. Philip M. Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center. “When you put a chemical substance in the vagina, it’s in the bloodstream a half hour later.” Therefore, anything that is placed within its walls will readily be absorbed by the body creating a similar effect of actually consuming the product orally. This is not good.

 

I Thought Tampons were Made of Just Cotton, Right?

 

This is the false assumption that most people make about their tampons and the truth is that actually very few are made of just cotton, let alone organic cotton. This is precisely the problem.

 

Rayon

Rayon is a synthetic fiber made from wood pulp, and is typically a main component of conventional tampons that requires hundreds of chemicals for its production. While it is more absorbent than cotton, it has been shown to increase your risk of TSS, therefore making it not worth the risk . “Rayon provides a perfect chemical condition for the production of staph [Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium usually responsible for TSS],” says Tierno. And he asserts that not one case of TSS has resulted from a 100 percent cotton tampon.

Rayon fibers have also been known to be left behind in the vaginal tissue, which can potentially damage the area leading to ulcerations and the peeling of the mucus membranes. This not only increases your risk of TSS but also increases your risk of vaginitis, UTI’s, yeast infections and even STDs.

 

Secret Tampon Holder

 

Dioxins

Most major brands of tampons and menstrual pads, such as Playtex, O.B., Tampax and others, use a chlorine bleaching process to whiten their products. This process results in the production of dioxin—a type of “organochlorine” as is DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange—that is linked to cancer, especially breast cancer, immune system suppression, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and low sperm count. While the EPA does not site a safe level of Dioxin, the real risk comes from accumulated toxicity. Dioxins are known to bioaccumulate and can remain in the body for 20-30 years. Therefore, every time you use a tampon, the toxins continue to build up in the vaginal tissue, which happens to be one of the most absorbent tissues in the body.

 

Non-Organic Cotton

Cotton, which is the main ingredient of tampons, is a mass-produced industrial crop that is highly sprayed with pesticides. Approximately “84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of conventional cotton grown each year in the US… These chemicals are some of the most toxic used in agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency has declared them to be ʻpossibleʼ, ʻlikelyʼ, ʻprobableʼ, or ʻknownʼ human carcinogens.” Therefore, just like we do not want to breathe these chemicals, eat these chemicals or bathe in the chemicals, we must not place them inside us either.

 

Fragrances

We all remember the joke in school about girls smelling like tuna fish, which has undoubtably led to a mass insecurity that drives women to reach for the tampons with fragrance. Unfortunately this little rumor has not only hurt women’s self-esteem, but also their health as well. Fragrances used in personal care products are actually made with synthetic chemicals, not the proposed crushed roses and spring water. These fragrance chemicals are known to be neurotoxins and immune system toxicants, which have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. In my opinion, certainly not worth the risk.

 

Image by Cavan Images

 

What Next? Are we Doomed to Use Pads??

 

Fortunately the answer is no. There are actually quite a few companies now that are making organic cotton tampons. All natural, organic tampons are made from non-GMO certified organic cotton.  They are free of irritating dyes, fragrances, rayon and all the risks that accompany rayon. Organic tampons are only marginally more expensive than conventional tampons but are most definitely worth the extra dollar. Therefore take the time and effort to make the right choice, and protect yourself from toxic tampons. You are worth it!

THK Favorite Brands: Terra Femme, Natracare, Eco Yarn, and Seventh Generation.

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23 Comments

  • Reply Marie-Claude April 17, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Didn’t you try the Diva Cup? Marvelous and waste free!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren April 18, 2012 at 1:34 am

      I haven’t tried them yet but I will! Great suggestion!

    • Reply Sarah April 18, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Um, Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking. Women in this country need to discover the Diva Cup. It is fantastic, worry-free, and cheaper than tampons in the long run!

      • lauren
        Reply lauren April 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        Thank you for all the support for using a new technique! And it is environmentally friendly as well!

    • Reply Betty April 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      Just FYI, there are other brands of reusable menstrual cups as well. I have the Lunette and I love it (I’ve never tried the Diva, so I can’t compare). I tried the Keeper too, but it didn’t seem to work as well for me. I never had a problem with tampons, but I just wanted to try out all my options. It took about 2 cycles to get comfortable with a cup and I’ll never go back to anything else.
      On a similar note is the Instead. It also collects (rather than absorbs) menstrual flow, but is different than a cup in insertion and removal. Originally Insteads were single use items, but a “new” one has come out marketed as reusable.
      These may not be for everyone, but you are really doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check them out. You might find a winner.

      • lauren
        Reply lauren April 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        Great Contribution! I think we are really getting some awesome suggestions here! Might need to follow up with a Diva Cup post!

      • Reply Kirsty Flockhart April 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

        I have been using the Lunette menstrual cup, it has been life changing!! Its a Scandinavian brand and I’ve never had any problems with it. I am planning to never use tampons again!

        • lauren
          Reply lauren April 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm

          Hi Kirsty! So awesome to hear about another great option! Thanks so much for the share, will have to try this out.

  • Reply Taye April 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Great post, Lauren. Definitely convinced me to switch from my usual Tampax. And @Marie-Claude I just looked up the Diva Cup and I think I’m excited to try it now…. awesome suggestion!

  • Reply G April 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I know someone who uses the DivaCup and she loves it. Her only complaint is that sometimes during a heavy flow, it will “spill” a bit, but that’s easily taken care of by wearing an ultra-thin pantyliner.

  • Reply Melissa April 18, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Great article. Thanks for the suggestions at the bottom. I have used the Diva Cup for 2 yrs and REALLY love it. But my tween daughter does not want to start w/ the Diva Cup so your suggestions will be a great place for her to start. Thanks!

  • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 19, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I’d been trying to decide on how to steer away from traditional wasteful/toxic methods when I started using the DivaCup in preparation for extended international travel. Honestly, now that I’m nearly a year in, I don’t think I’d ever switch back.

  • Reply Aileen April 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I love the DivaCup, too. It’s easy and, even though it sometimes takes a few tries to get the seal right so it doesn’t leak, it’s way better than tampons.

  • Reply Diane April 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I switched to a Diva cup about 3 years ago and I’ver never looked back. Less mess, less discomfort, and no worry about what nasty chemicals are leaching into my bloodstream! Viva the Diva!

  • Reply Laura July 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I guess I’m late to the party but DIVA CUP FTW. Just wanted to reinforce that message…

  • Reply Karen DeWitt August 27, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    I love my Diva Cup (and/or keeper- that’s what they seemed to have in the east coast). Silicon cup = Way nicer than having a wad of cotton up there. My BF calls it my “challice”.
    Highly reccomend!

  • Reply Melissa July 31, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Downside of cotton products is that they are a lot less absorbent. With very heavy bleeding, I have had to resort to tampons and the heaviest pad at the same time. The cups are not readily available here in Australia, but I would be concerned that I would have leakage due to extremely heavy menses. Thankfully, surgery should take care of this within a month. If I have any bleeding afterwards, it should be very light. If I do, how do I know the cups are safe? Look what happened with silicone in people’s bodies before. It is still chemical.

    • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale July 31, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Melissa, there are still a couple non-toxic options for tampons, ones that even have enough padding for a heavy flow. Those may be the best option for you.

      • Reply Melissa August 3, 2014 at 12:36 am

        only seen the cotton ones which aren’t very absorbant here. Have used them when going to the pool for aqua aerobics but since my bleeding issues have become extreme, I cannot use tampons and I cannot go to the pool due to feinting and not being able to stop the bleeding and not being able to use tampons. What are they because I have not been able to find them? Using underwear with pads in them would mean having to wash and sanitize them. Ewww! I am in Australia where we have two brands, that I know of, cotton and one is bad for absorbancy and the other is worse. I would be worried about the cups because I am worried that I would react to the silicone, and that they would fill up too quickly and leak over. I can fill the heaviest flow pads and leak in under an hour. Never seen anything like the underwear here and I think the only way we can get the cups is from overseas. We have very limited options.

  • Reply Maria July 31, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I was reading an article about alternitives to tampons and pads and discovered there is a company that actually makes underwear with a built in liner to absorb excess, instead of using disposable pads. Oh and they are really pretty too, would be great used with the diva cup!

    • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale July 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Great find Maria! What is it called?

  • Reply Melissa August 3, 2014 at 12:34 am

    What are they because I have not been able to find them? Using underwear with pads in them would mean having to wash and sanitize them. Ewww! I am in Australia where we have two brands, that I know of, cotton and one is bad for absorbancy and the other is worse. I would be worried about the cups because I am worried that I would react to the silicone, and that they would fill up too quickly and leak over. I can fill the heaviest flow pads and leak in under an hour. Never seen anything like the underwear here and I think the only way we can get the cups is from overseas. We have very limited options.

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