How Toxic Are Tampons, Really?
There has been a shift in recent years as more and more people are becoming aware of what harmful substances companies are using in the production of their products. This shift has involved everything from the food we eat to the skincare products that we use. However, the food we eat and what face cleansers we use is not the only thing we need to worry about.
Unfortunately, when it comes to personal care products such as tampons, there aren’t a lot of regulations for what ingredients can be used in their manufacturing. In fact, there are some loopholes that keep tampon companies from having to even list what some of their ingredients are.
Luckily for those of us who are looking for a change, there are plenty of safer and healthier alternatives available to tampons, including cloth menstrual pads, that people who menstruate can take advantage of. Keep reading to find out exactly which ingredients are used in the typical tampon and what you can do to avoid them.
Tampons’ Toxic History
For centuries, women and people who menstruate have been dealing with awkward and uncomfortable solutions for their periods. With the invention of the tampon in 1929, menstruating was suddenly much easier to manage. Unfortunately, tampons have not always had the greatest reputation, especially in the early days.
In the 80s, tampon use was linked to toxic shock syndrome (TSS). At this point, one in four women were using Rely tampons, which increased the amount of this rare, life-threatening condition. In 1980 alone, over 800 cases of menstrual-related TSS were reported in the U.S., with 38 of them resulting in death.
Needless to say, tampons have been working to improve their reputation in the last few decades—and have definitely made advancements in their production. However, while regulations around tampon production have greatly improved since the early days, you would be surprised by how many harmful chemicals are still present in their production.
Harmful Ingredients Commonly Found in Tampons
When pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on cotton crops, it affects their growth. Genetically engineered cotton is designed to be resistant to these chemicals, which means that a lot more can be used on cotton crops. This is extremely problematic because it increases the risk of residue from these chemicals making their way into the final product.
Used in the manufacturing of tampons for its high levels of absorbency, rayon is one of four synthetic materials known for increasing the likelihood of TSS. Some common symptoms of TSS include fever, rash, peeling skin, and low blood pressure. However, unlike the other three materials associated with TSS that have been taken off the market, rayon is still used when making tampons, only now it’s mixed with cotton.
The disinfectant chlorine dioxide is used in tampon production to bleach rayon. As a result, trace amounts of dioxin, a very dangerous toxin, is produced as a by-product of this process. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does state that dioxin levels in modern tampons are hardly detectable. However, this does not mean you should not be aware of what ingredients are used to make tampons and look into chlorine-free alternatives.
This particular chemical is a result of chlorine processing. Dioxin has been linked to fairly harmful hormone disruption that has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental problems, as well as negatively affect your immune system. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that there is no safe level of exposure to dioxin, as it may even cause cancer.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone-disrupting chemical that comes from the production of plastic. As you are most likely aware, many tampon brands use plastic as the material for their applicators. Unfortunately, BPA can imitate the body’s hormones, interrupting the production, secretion, function, and elimination of natural hormones. It has also been linked to certain cases of cancer. Make sure your tampons use applicators that are BPA-free.
It is not required for brands to list the chemicals that are included in their fragrances. Instead, they can just use the umbrella term ‘fragrance’. This means that we have no idea what potentially dangerous chemical ingredients are being put into the tampons we use. Ultimately, the fragrance used in scented tampons can affect your vaginal pH balance, potentially leading to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
Healthy Alternatives to Tampons
It is important to know exactly what ingredients are used in the products we use each and every day, not just tampons. Educating yourself on what you are putting on or in your body is a part of participating in responsible consumerism.
While it cannot be argued that tampons have come a long way from the days when they were first invented, the average tampon on the market still has some pretty serious chemicals in them. Thankfully, if you’re considering making the switch to a more natural, organic menstruation solution, there are plenty of options available to you!
Hannahpad offers reusable cloth menstrual pads in a wide variety of styles and patterns. Why reusables? Not only are they good for you, but they are also good for the environment. So whether you’re looking for a healthier tampon alternative or working on building a zero waste kit to help the environment, consider a cloth menstrual pad.
Check out our wide selection to see which style is right for you!