How to Go Green With Silv: Toxic Feminine Products by Silvia Milanova, February 24 2016, 1 Comment

Feminine Hygiene Products

Copyright: defotoberg / 123RF Stock Photo

This may be an embarrassing subject to some, but ladies, let’s talk about feminine products. The fact is, about 73 million women in the United States use tampons, with the average woman using up to 17,000 tampons in her lifetime. That’s a lot of products that come in contact with your skin (and important body parts) and eventually end up in landfills. Although that does not seem like a problem, consider what tampons are mostly made of: conventional (aka, non-organic) cotton and rayon—for added absorbency. Since cotton is a crop susceptible to weeds, it is sprayed with approximately 55 million pounds of pesticides a year. And you guessed it, some of these chemicals end up in the final product, in this case, tampons and pads.

The problem

A recent report by researchers at the University of La Plata in Argentina, found that at least 85 percent of tampons, cotton balls and other sanitary products contain trace amounts of glyphosate, a herbicide used to kill weeds and a possible contributor to cancer. This chemical is also one of the primary ingredients in Roundup Ready®, a product of agricultural giant, Monsanto. Glyphosate has been linked to everything from allergies, depression and obesity to an increased risk of autism, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Therefore, countries like France and the Netherlands have placed restrictions on the use of the toxin.

Now, let’s take a look at the toxic composition of tampons (the cotton/rayon/fragrance/bleach can also be applied to pads):

  • Non-organic cotton and rayon—cotton could contain traces of pesticides; the bleaching of rayon produces dioxins, which are associated with the infection, toxic shock syndrome (TSS)
  • Plastic applicator—could contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which in turn contains phthalates, chemicals that help create a softer and more flexible plastic, but can also contribute to cancerous tumors, birth defects and other developmental disorders
  • Fragrance—could contain dozens of chemicals; these are usually undisclosed
  • Chlorine—used to bleach the cotton, but toxic when mixed with rayon

Environmental impact:

  • Landfill waste—from the plastic applicators that remain after the use of each tampon

Know the offenders

Procter & Gamble (makes Tampax® and always®), Kimberly-Clark (makes Kotex®), and Edgewell Personal Care (makes Playtex®, Carefree®, Stayfree® and o.b.®) are three of the top producers of feminine hygiene products. Currently, all of these companies use conventional cotton, sometimes rayon, and mostly plastic applicators (except for the applicator free o.b.® tampons). These brands are also not required to list all of the ingredients that go into each of their feminine products.

What you can do right now

  • Take action. Tell the companies mentioned above to use only USDA certified organic cotton for their products in order to prevent your lady parts from coming in contact with glyphosate. Sign the Sierra Club® petition here.
  • Purchase organic cotton tampons and pads that are also free of chlorine, synthetic dyes and fragrances, plastic and rayon, and that are compostable. Some popular brands include Natracare®, Seventh Generation®, Maxim®, Organyc® and oi (organic initiative). You could also be super brave and try a reusable pad or menstrual cup!