There is growing concern about the safety of all the personal care products that we put on our skin on a daily basis. Scientists are paying particular attention to endocrine disruptors,  chemicals that mess with the hormones your body’s endocrine system regulates, and the diseases that are linked to these, like brain disorders, reproductive issues, obesity and cancer. But what about tampons and other feminine hygiene products? It seems that these should be on the growing list of potentially hazardous personal care products.

Since tampons are classified as a medical device in the USA, the FDA doesn't regulate the ingredients used in feminine hygiene products. This means that full disclosure of the ingredients is not mandatory. Main-stream tampons are made of cotton and plastics. Cotton used in popular brands of tampons is grown using pesticides and chemicals and those may be absorbed into your body when you use tampons. Actually, the vagina is very absorbent, because vaginal tissue is lined with permeable mucous membranes, which protect the body from bacteria, but which can also easily absorb or be irritated by other chemicals. These vaginal membranes are filled with blood vessels, which allow any chemical they are exposed to to be easily absorbed into your bloodstream. The plastics used in tampons may have chemicals like BPA and BPS that disrupt embryonic development and they're linked to heart disease and cancer. Phthalates, which give paper tampon applicators a smooth finish, are known to disregulate gene expression, and DEHP may lead to multiple organ damage. Furthermore, synthetics and plastic restrict air flow and trap heat and dampness, all of which could stimulate yeast and bacteria growth in your vaginal area.

Pesticides may not be the only chemicals in your tampon. Chlorine is used to whiten and disinfect raw materials, but it leaves behind dioxin residues in the fibers of the tampon that are carcinogenic. Bleaching is possible with the natural bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide, but this is more expensive so non-organic companies don't use it. Another reason to choose organic feminine hygiene products is the environmental impact. All tampons and pads used by women create a huge amount of waste, so choosing organic is good, but a menstrual cup or underwear by the brand Thinx even better. 

Even though millions of women use tampons and feminine hygiene pads so often and for such a long time in their life, very little research has been done on how these products affect  women´s bodies. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has been trying to change that by introducing The Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act, a bill named after a woman who died from Toxic Shock Syndrome. The act demands independent testing of all feminine hygiene products by the National Institutes of Health, and that their findings (as well as all ingredients used in the production of pads and tampons) be made public. Maloney has introduced the bill more than a dozen times since 1997, most recently in 2015 (so far, it still hasn't been passed).

So, what can you do to protect yourself and the environment?

1. Use organic feminine hygiene products.

2. Use Thinx underwear.

3. Use a menstrual cup, like the Moon Cup or Diva Cup.




Carolyn B. Maloney