The FDA doesn't require any sort of labeling on feminine hygiene products. What this means is that manufacturers are free to use chemicals, damaging fibers, and even GMO cotton.
Andrea Donsky has an extremely thorough post on the dangers of non-organic tampons and pads. Here's some of Andrea's research:
- Conventional tampons and sanitary pads are bleached using chlorine dioxide. Although the process is technically “chlorine-free,” it produces dioxins as a byproduct released into the environment. In 1998, the EPA outlawed a much more potent dioxin-producing bleaching process, and while the newer process significantly reduces dioxins, some experts believe it doesn’t eliminate them entirely from the end products. According to the EPA, dioxin exposure causes cancer in lab animals and poses a high risk to humans as well.
- Conventional tampons contain pesticides. I’ve long been wary of conventional, non-organic, foods for fear of pesticide residue. All the while, conventional cotton, the most heavily sprayed crop in existence, is used in the tampons that women use each and every month. Cotton crops make up just 2.4 percent of the world’s land, but each year a whopping $2 billion is spent on pesticides to spray this one crop. If tampons were a fruit or vegetable, they would most certainly be added to the top of the Dirty Dozen Plus™ list.
- Tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and other artificial fragrances are nothing short of a chemical soup laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene, and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness, and infertility. We are becoming more aware of the dangers associated with chemicals in everyday products including lotions, shampoos, shower curtains, household cleaners, etc. but we need to stop and think about the tampons and sanitary pads we put into and onto our bodies every single month.
- In 2003, House Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation that would have required research into the health risks posed by additives found in feminine hygiene products. The suspected risks included endometriosis, cervical cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. This legislation didn't pass. We recently called Carolyn Maloney's office to inquire whether any new legislation has been put forth since 2003 and they confirmed nothing has. It's been over 10 years since concern arose that the chemicals in tampons and pads could potentially harm women's reproductive organs. So why wouldn't legislation to research the issue be brought back to the table over and over again until something is done about it?
- Many conventional sanitary pads include latex, a potential allergen. Latex can be used to make the wings on pads more flexible, and it can be used as a binder on the surface of pads and liners, where it comes in close contact with the skin.
- Ninety percent of conventional sanitary pads are made from crude oil plastic. The rest is made from chlorine-bleached wood pulp. By using plastic laden feminine hygiene products, we add the equivalent to 180 billion plastic bags to our waste stream.
- Conventional tampons most probably contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According the USDA, 94 percent of all the cotton planted in the U.S. is genetically engineered. GMOs have been linked to a host of health issues including food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, and inflammation, just to name a few. By purchasing conventional tampons you are essentially supporting GMO grown [cotton] crops.
I switched to a menstrual cup about a year ago and I love it. For $25, I have a reusable, silicone cup that I can use for the rest of my life with no risk to my health.
It took a few months to get good at inserting and removing my diva cup but it was so worth it. You have to be comfortable putting your fingers in your vagina. You simply pinch the cup, fold it in half, insert it, and then run your fingers around the cup to make sure it opened up. If it's still pinched on one side, I pull it out just a bit and push it back in.
It's amazing to see how much you actually bleed. When you empty your cup, you realize that it's really not that much blood. And it's become kind of a ritual to spill out my blood in the shower and watch it pool around my feet before going down the drain. There's something about the metallic smell, the stickiness and knowing that my body is a dynamic reproductive system that makes my clit hard.
If you're using Tampax or OB or Always - throw them in the garbage. Make sure you buy organic products like natracare or Luna pads. And if you never want to dig through your purse for a forgotten tampon or scrounge around your apartment for a stray pad get a Diva Cup. It will change your life.
Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson