Women today are making decisions to live in a more organic, toxic-free way. From the products that we put on our bodies, to the food we eat, women are choosing to live a way that is as green and toxic-free as possible. However, one area that is often overlooked is feminine hygiene products. Tampons are a product that are used on a monthly basis, but rarely get a second thought.
Recently, tampons have gained attention for their potential health risks for women. Tampons are not the average cosmetic, because they are used in a very absorbent and sensitive part of the body that may be prone to absorbing toxins more easily. Substances may not go through the typical metabolic and elimination processes in the body, so chemicals in tampons are absorbed and can pass almost directly into the bloodstream. Vaginal and vulvar tissues are more permeable than the rest of the skin, which makes it especially sensitive to irritants and chemicals. Chemicals that can be found in tampons today include alcohols, hydrocarbons, fragranced additives, and aluminum.
Research has shown that women’s exposure to endocrine disruptors can increase with the use of feminine care products. Endocrine disruptors are compounds that mimic or interfere with the function of hormones in the body and can cause reproductive damage, neurological damage, can lower immunity to disease, and have been linked to brain disorders, cancer, and obesity. Phthalates, one particular class of endocrine disruptors, have been linked to higher asthma rates and lower IQs. Women’s exposed to phthalates may increase with the use of fragranced feminine care products.
Dioxins are another group of chemicals that are also found in tampons. Dioxins are the byproducts of the bleaching process that is involved in the manufacturing process of tampons. There is no safe level of exposure to dioxins, and they are highly toxic and are known to damage the immune system, cause cancer, interfere with hormones, and can cause developmental and reproductive problems. Once dioxins enter the body, they last a long time because of their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue and their chemical stability.
Most tampons are made from cotton, rayon, or other pulp fibers. Besides dioxins, those materials may also contain pesticides from non-organic cotton and furans. Tampons are recommended to be free of dioxins, herbicide, and pesticide residues. But that is purely a suggestion and not a requirement; and reports have revealed that toxic chemicals still exist in tampons, even with the recommendations of the FDA. Artificial fibers that are used in tampons are abrasive, and when a tampon is lengthened, it pushes against the cervical area. This causes small cuts and imbedded pieces in the tissue. Small tears in the vaginal wall from a tampon can allow bacteria to enter and grow.
Tampons also have a negative impact on the environment. The production process for tampons needs large amounts of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. The bleaching process, production of the plastic applicators, and the production of the materials like rayon and other synthetics takes metric tons and tons of water. Chemicals used in the production process end up in water ways, and harm marine life when they pollute ocean water.
Tampons also produce a large amount of waste because they are not recyclable or reusable. In a lifetime, a woman will use anywhere around 8,000 to 16,000 or more pads or tampons. That means that 7 billion tampons and pads end up in landfills every year. A tampon can take up to 6 months to decompose, and that does not include the packaging or the applicator. The plastic applicator takes longer to decompose, and oftentimes end up in the ocean, where they also harm marine life.
Tampon Tribe: A Clean Alternative
One emerging company that is devoted to tackling this issue and providing a solution to the toxins in our tampons is Tampon Tribe. Tampon Tribe produces 100% certified organic tampons that contain no perfumes, no dyes, plastics, additives, or bleaches. The manufacturing is ICEA certified, which means that it follows international environmental, organic, and ecological standards. Only pure ingredients that are tested with microbiological and dermatological tests are used.
The use of water is strictly monitored and limited, and no chemicals leach into the waterways. These guidelines also apply to the packaging materials – so only recycled and ecological packaging is used. The tampons are biodegradable and every part of the tampon, including the tampon itself, the applicator, and the packing are all compostable. The company is also certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard that is the world’s leading processing standard for textiles that are made from organic fibres. Tampon Tribe hopes to use this to empower women and keep the environment clean, and strives to make sustainable and organic tampons and pads accessible and affordable to all women.
Right now Tampon Tribe is running an Indiegogo campaign, it’s a great way to support organic feminine hygiene as well as get a sweet deal.