The Truth about Tampons (and Pads)

*This article is in reference to non-organic products*


Disposable, single-use tampons and pads became available in much of the developed world in the first half of the 20th century. Today tampons are used by over 100 million women worldwide, while pads, which are much more widespread on a global scale due to a cultural aversion to tampons in many regions, comprise a multi-billion dollar industry.

The average woman uses an average of more than 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. It’s estimated that approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are filling (North American) landfills annually. These products require hundreds of years to biodegrade, particularly if wrapped in the plastic bag commonly provided for this purpose as part of their packaging. (In fact, every piece of plastic ever made, still exists to this day.)  In addition to the environmental crisis these products produce, the actual process of manufacturing these products – turning wood pulp into soft, cotton-like fibers – is both resource- and chemical-intensive.  and

While the environmental issues are cause enough for concern, I am writing to share something far scarier about these products.

The purpose of feminine care products is to clean, moisturize, absorb discharge or otherwise treat the sensitive skin and tissues of the vaginal area. The vagina (vulva and labia, too) is comprised of soft tissue that is incredibly absorbent. Inserting a standard tampon or placing a pad against this area is the equivalent of inviting toxic chemicals into your most delicate and absorbent areas.

Tampons and pads are sold under the cosmetic product label, and are therefore tested and determined to be “safe” if used on ordinary skin.  (Which is a joke in itself, as the chemicals found within them have been proven that they should be nowhere near our skin or bodies.) This means chemicals of concern such as carcinogens, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, and allergens are being used on, or even in, the extremely permeable mucus membranes of the vaginal area.  (Yes, these chemicals are all approved for use in our cosmetics too.)

Tampons and pads are made of cotton, right? They are actually made of cotton and rayon:

  • Rayon is not a natural substance and is classified as a synthetic fiber due to the chemical process used to create it.
  • A few of the toxic chemicals used in the process of manufacturing rayon include carbon hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and carbon disulfide.
  • Rayon absorbent fibers added to the tampon can stick to your vaginal wall (causing irritation) and some loose fibers may even be left behind when you remove the tampon potentially raising your risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
  • About 90% of the cotton grown in the U.S. is genetically modified (GMO) according to the USDA.
  • Conventional cotton (non-organic) is considered by many to be the world’s “dirtiest” crop. It is one of the highest sprayed (if not the highest) crops in the U.S.
  • 5 of the top 9 pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. are classified by the EPA as a Category 1 & 2, which are the most dangerous.  These pesticides have also been linked to cancer.
  • A recent discovery by a university has discovered that feminine hygiene products contain a chemical (glyphosate) found in Monsanto’s famous “Roundup” herbicide.  This chemical has been classified as probably carcinogenic.”

According to Revolution News:

“Glyphosate was found in 85% of the products containing cotton bought in pharmacies and supermarkets including feminine care products like tampons and sanitary pads, sterile gauze pads, cotton swabs and wipes.”

February (2016),The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will begin testing food for glyphosate, the world’s most commonly used pesticide. This marks the first time that a U.S. agency will routinely test for glyphosate residue in food. It comes after the Government Accountability Office released a report condemning the FDA for failing even to disclose its failure to test for glyphosate in its annual pesticide residue report.

Did You Know?

Tampons and pads are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process creates a by-product called dioxin, which has been labeled as a toxic carcinogen by the World Health Organization.  (Learn more about the dangers of this toxic chemical here:

Learn more about the controversial topic of dioxins leading to infertility (Click HERE and HERE.)

Bleaching exposes women to low levels of dioxins every time they use these feminine hygiene products.  Not to mention, these toxins get stored in fat cells over time making it more difficult to maintain a healthy body throughout life.

* products labeled as ‘chlorine-free bleaching’ may still use methods containing chlorine dioxide.

Aside from pesticides, traces of dioxin, and GMOs, if you’re using scented tampons, be aware that such products may contain any of the nearly 3,000 fragrance chemicals in use. But, like the above mentioned chemicals, they probably won’t be listed on the label. An analysis by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), which acquired public patent documents held by Proctor & Gamble (the maker of Tampax and Always), showed the following chemicals may also be in your tampons.

Chemical NameFunctionPotential Health EffectsFound in
Benzethonium ChloridePreservative, spermicideNot for use on mucous membranes, maternal and embryotoxicityDeodorant powders and suppositories, feminine wash
BenzocaineMild anestheticAllergic rash, dermatitisAnti-itch creams
ButylparabenPreservativeEndocrine disruption, increased risk of breast cancer, allergic rashWipes
D&C Red 33Colorant (dye)Not for use on mucous membranesFeminine wash
Diazolidinyl ureaPreservativeReleases formaldehyde, allergic rash, cancerFeminine wash, douche
Dioxins and FuransContaminant from bleaching processCancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicityTampons (not disclosed on label)
DMDM HydantoinPreservativeReleases formaldehyde, allergic rash, cancerWipes, feminine wash
EthylparabenPreservativeEndocrine disruption, increased risk of breast cancer, allergic rashWipes
Ext. Violet 2Colorant (dye)Not for use on mucous membranesFeminine Wash
FD&C Yellow No. 5Colorant (dye)Allergic reactions including bronchial asthmaFeminine Wash
“Fragrance”FragranceContains undisclosed chemicals of unknown toxicity, likely to contain allergens, allergic rash, endocrine disruption, cancerWipes, feminine wash, tampons, pads, douche, deodorant, anti-itch creams
MethylchloroisothiazolinonePreservativeAllergic rashFeminine wash
MethylisothiazolinonePreservativeAllergic rashWipes, feminine wash, anti-itch cream
MethylparabenPreservativeEndocrine disruption, increased risk of breast cancer, allergic rashWipes, deodorant, anti-itch creams
Octoxynol 9SpermicideGenital irritation, increased vaginal discharge, potential reproductive toxicityDouche
Pesticide residuesContaminant of traditionally grown cottonCancer, endocrine disruption, acute toxicityTampons (not disclosed on label)
Polyoxymethylene UreaPreservativeReleases formaldehyde, allergic rash, cancerDeodorant powder
PropylparabenPreservativeEndocrine disruption, increased risk of breast cancer, allergic rashWipes, anti-itch creams
Quaternium-15PreservativeReleases formaldehyde, allergic rash, cancerWipes, feminine wash
2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1, 3-DiolPreservativeReleases formaldehyde, allergic rash, cancerWipes

Tampons and Pads have also been linked to the following:

  1. Imbalances pH of the vagina- Normal pH is essential for maintaining good vaginal health. When the pH is imbalanced a woman is at risk for vaginal issues such as infections, pain and discomfort.
  2. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)- which is not as rare as we are made to believe. TSS can include causing endometriosis, abnormal pap smears, genital warts, etc. TSS is caused by a bacterial toxin that can also result in high fever, confusion, a rash similar to a sunburn, low blood pressure and can be fatal.
  3. Interfering with the menstrual flow- Tampons disrupt the natural downward flow of energy during menstruation which causes excess cramping and abdominal discomfort.
  4. Depleting natural fluids causing dryness and irritation- In addition to absorbing blood tampons also absorb the natural vaginal fluids which causes the vaginal walls to become dry and damaged.
  5. Containing mold –

Better Options

  • Organic Tampons
  • Organic Pads
  • Reusable Fabric Pads
  • Menstrual Cup

Pads and tampons are one of the most convenient inventions for feminine hygiene products in modern times; however, now more than ever it’s crucial for us to know what we’re putting into our body.  Knowledge is power.

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