What’s in your tampon?

Tampons are a staple within feminine care routines. In 2015, statistics revealed the average woman uses over 16,000 tampons in her lifetime. For such a common household product, no one knows much about the ingredients comprising them.

There are currently no laws in place, federal or state, requiring tampon manufacturers to list the ingredients used in tampons. The implications may frighten you. Manufacturers can put anything in their products as long as the trace amounts of chemicals pass standard regulation. This means they can be marketed without putting ingredients on the labels. Therefore, the average consumer has no idea what materials or chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.

On December 12th of 2018, Kotex recalled tampon products because they were found to be unraveling while in use. When tampons break down inside the body, there are serious consequences. Material left inside the body can cause life-threatening reactions like Toxic Shock Syndrome. This terrifying syndrome is most often associated with tampons that have remained within the body for too long. Where feminine hygiene products are concerned, particularly tampons, educating yourself about what manufacturers are placing in them and what regulations exist to protect the consumer is crucial.

What are tampons composed of?

Most women, at some point in their lives, wonder what their feminine products are made of. In fact, many women are unaware of what ingredients are in their sanitary pads and tampons because of how little is revealed by manufacturers regarding their products. When asked what ingredients make up an Always INFINITY pad, service reps could only identify two main ingredients: Infinicel and foam. Consumer protection researchers burned and analyzed the chemical components of various popular brands of tampons. In organic brands, they found the pads left no alarming residue.

In Always INFINITY products, they found dioxins, petrochemicals, and synthetic fibers. Dioxins are the result of many industrial processes, such as bleaching, and can be a serious health hazard. According to the EPA, small trace amounts of dioxins can lead to abnormal tissue growth, suppression of the immune system and disruption of the endocrine system. Other suspected ingredients in tampons include:

  • Rayon.
  • Cellulose wood fluff pulp.
  • Vicose.

Vicose and rayon may be super absorbant, but they can stick to vaginal walls, which are one of the more absorbant parts of your body. This means that even when you remove a tampon, fragments can stick to your vaginal walls, creating a potential health hazard.

How safe are your tampons?

If you, like many, have used these products for many years without an issue, you may think tampons are fairly safe. The bottom line is that they are, with some cautions to keep in mind. The FDA recently debunked the notion that the chemicals residing in tampons are detrimental. However, even small trace amounts of material left behind can set up the perfect environment for bacteria to breed. While cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome have declined since major manufacturers agreed to remove at least three of the ingredients proven to cause problems, many OBGYN physicians say it is still not enough.

Dioxin has many researchers and physicians concerned, especially since the body does not shed it and it can accumulate over time. Researchers are now calling for companies to show data indicating the safety of their products. A leading manufacturer of tampons has criticized the claims stating that they have not used dioxin or bleach in their production for a decade. While this statement is true, they fail to take into account that most of their products now include some portion of rayon. The process of creating rayon involves hundreds of chemicals, which become imbedded in the tampons.

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Researchers are also concerned that the cotton used in tampons are now coming from genetically modified cotton fields. These varieties of cottons can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their tampon users. Researchers pose the scenario of a woman with an STD using a tampon with antibiotic resistance. She is unable to combat the infection with conventional antibiotics as a result.

Take your favorite brand of tampon and place it into a glass of water for approximately the same amount of time you would leave the product in your body. Then remove it and observe the particles that remain. This is what remains after each tampon use. Multiply that over the dozen or more tampons used during the course of your period each month and that is significant. Your vagina does eliminate most of these fibers, but not all of them.

Are there safer alternatives?

With an increase in awareness to the dangers of commercial tampons and pads, women are looking for any alternative to the current products available on the market. Physicians urge women to avoid purchasing products with dyes or fragrance, to change them often and to use only the absorbency required. Here are a few brands that are considered safer:

  • Natracare is a company that began in 1989, creating safer, more natural menstrual products. The products are marketed as soft certified organic cotton, biodegradable and completely chlorine and plastic-free. The plastics that comprise the tampons are generated from plant starches, making them safer for women and the environment.
  • Diva Cup is a silicone cup that is reusable. Rather than using tampons for each menstrual cycle, simply place in the Diva Cup. It is advertised to be particle and residue free. The product is cured at a high temperature for extra protection against possible residual fibers. There is a cleansing routine that should be carried out with repeated use of the Diva Cup, however it has none of the plastics, acrylics, or dioxins found in traditional commercial tampons.
  • Seventh Generation has dedicated itself to creating tampons and pads free of chlorine or other harmful chemicals. The brand discloses all of the ingredients that comprise their products, ensuring you always know what you are buying. The pads and tampons are guaranteed 100 percent cotton.
  • Glad Rags created a reusable menstrual product, which is better for you and the environment. You may be hesitant to try menstrual products that are reusable. However, both the cups and reusable cotton pads are made free of harsh materials and synthetics. By using menstrual items that are easily washable, you are saving money and using items that are better for your body.
  • Organyc is a brand that offers more than just safer menstrual products. They also offer safer beauty and baby products for consumers. Their products are made with 100 percent certified organic cottons that are tested for sensitive skin. Products are pH compatible and free of chlorine, parabens, latex and other manmade materials.

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