Light, regular, heavy, super-heavy, scented, applicator, no applicator – there are so many different varieties of monthly feminine care products on the market, we’re definitely not stuck for choice but should we be considering an even bigger choice? A choice that puts our health, fertility, and the environment at the forefront of our decision?
FACT: The Ancient Egyptians used rolled Papyrus leaves to make primitive tampons!
The majority of you reading this will already be mindful of what we put in our bodies. Maybe you’ve only bought and consumed organic produce for years or perhaps you’re testing the waters working towards changing your diet or searching for healthier alternatives in your beauty regime. Whether we practice healthy eating or not we all know the importance of what we put into our bodies but it’s so easy to forget that it’s not just about food and skin care.
Did you know, on average, a woman will spend 6 1/2 years of her life on her period? During these 6 1/2 years of menstruating she will use roughly 13,000 tampons and in the UK 4.3 billion sanitary products are used in total every year!
Perhaps you’ve never thought about your choice in feminine care products or how they may be impacting your health before reading this article, or maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of making a more health conscious and environmentally friendly choice but aren’t quite sure of the alternatives! Either way I hope this article will provide you with enough information to make a decision that is right for you.
Are your tampons toxic?
Head into your nearest supermarket or chemists and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking up a pack of tampons. But almost all feminine care products are made with bleached rayon, synthetic fragrance, cotton, and plastics. I’m not sure about you but I wouldn’t want anything bleached going near ‘there’! These sanitary products can also leave behind fibres and absorb the natural vaginal fluids and friendly bacteria that can upset the natural flora and can cause thrush and bladder infections – along with Toxic Shock Syndrome.
You may also be shocked to hear that big-boy companies like Procter & Gamble don’t have to fully disclose the ingredients of their tampons because they are classified as “medical devices”. Meaning those ingredient lists may look pretty innocent but there will be no way of knowing the hidden ingredients that could be toxic.
Rayon is made from cellulose fibres – and while cellulose is natural the process of turning it into rayon involves treating it with chemicals like chlorine, carbon disulphide, and sulphuric acid. Rayon fibres can also be abrasive to the highly delicate vaginal tissues. These abrasive fibres can cause tiny scratches especially when inserting and removing tampons.
Ever wondered how tampons get be so white? Tampons are bleached with chlorine which results in the production of dioxin – a chemical which has been linked to endometriosis and breast cancer. Dioxin is classed as a hormone disruptor which can inhibit the body’s oestrogen action. There are also concerns that dioxin may also be present in breast milk which can then be passed onto babies during breastfeeding.
So you’ve found a packet of tampons which claim to be made from pure cotton instead of rayon. That’s all very well but did you know that 5 of the top 9 pesticides use on cotton crops are known carcinogens? They are cyanide, naled, propargite, dicofol (an endocrine disruptor that affects estrogen), and trifluralin (an endocrine disruptor that affects metabolism and the entire reproductive system).
Toxin Shock Syndrome – is it a real concern?
Toxic shock syndrome is an infection which is caused by the usually harmless Staphylococcus aureus orStreptococcus bacteria which invades the bloodstream and produces dangerous toxins which can lead to fever, headaches, vomiting, organ failure, and even death.
In the 1970’s and 80’s a number of menstrual related Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) deaths caused panic among women. In the US there were more than 800 cases of TSS and 38 deaths in 1980 alone! Further investigation into these cases revealed that 71 per cent of the women had been using a particular brand of highly absorbent tampons which has recently come on the market. The tampons in question were removed from the market and cases of TSS steadily declined over the following years. Today in the UK there are about 40 cases of TSS of which about 20 are menstrual related and only 2-3 of these cases result in death – but why take the risk?
According to the book ‘Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation’ the average woman throws away up to 140kg of sanitary products in her lifetime which doesn’t sound like much but if you multiply that figure with the female half of the population (there’s about 28.5 million of us in the UK alone) it really does start to add up! Plus it’s not just the product itself which causes environmental concern, but the packaging, applicators, as well as transportation, and production that all have an effect on our planet too.
A safer alternative?
Last year I made the switch to a menstrual cup and I’ve never looked back! Ok, please don’t freak out and lose interest! Before you write me off as some hard-core eco-warrior that bathes in the same bath water all week (I don’t by the way) hear me out! I once too thought that menstrual cups were for the super-green hippies among us, but after spending some time researching hormones and periods (for acne) I came across this vlog. The following day I went out and bought a Mooncup!
A menstrual cup is a flexible silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina. This cup basically catches all of the menstrual blood throughout the day and you can keep it in for up to 12 hours meaning you can pretty much forget about it all day – even if you have a heavy flow! Menstrual cups are also very cost effective. One cup should last you about 10 years if you look after it, so at roughly £20 – it’s great value for money! Think about all the money you have to fork out on tampons, liners, pads, and ruined underwear! It’s also a vast improvement from the tonnes of sanitary products that get dumped in landfill sites each year.
Since switching over to a menstrual cup I barely suffer from cramps and don’t have that horrible time-of-the-month feeling ‘down-there’. You know what I mean ladies, that uncomfortable, awkward feeling we’re you’re permanently concious about smelling or leaking. I always assumed it was the period blood that smelt bad but after making the switch I’ve discovered that it’s actually the sanitary towels and tampons mixing with your menstrual blood that creates the odour, not you!
If you still think that the menstrual cup is weird or disgusting then there are still other options. Brands such as Natracare and TOTM create healthy natural and organic sanitary wear. These products are safe and more environmentally friendly than their synthetic counterparts but they will still absorb your natural fluids which can affect the bacteria balance in your vagina and can be uncomfortable for those who struggle with dryness, especially towards the end of your period.
Whether it’s natural cotton tampons or the menstrual cup, with these natural alternatives you’re taking care of your body and our planet!
I hope this article has raised some awareness over the toxicity of tampons and your use of monthly feminine care products and perhaps even made you reconsider the products you’re currently using. There is an abundance of further information out there on this subject (I particular liked this fact page on TOTM) so do your research and discover the products that are right for you.
Peace, Love & Clear Skin