Organic tampons are certainly gaining in popularity, and gaining more attention as a result. But are they actually better than the regular synthetic brands?
“Your vagina is a delicate area and while feminine products are promoted as a ‘hygienic’ solution, they can sometimes cause problems for women if the ingredients aren’t gentle enough – for example in cases where products are scented,” says Caroline Overton, MBBS, MD, FHEA, FRCOG, consultant gynaecologist at St Michael’s University Hospital and Honorary senior clinical lecturer with the University of Bristol.
“I can’t say that I’ve seen women who are allergic to their tampons, but I have certainly seen women who develop dermatitis from the pads that they wear for periods and/or feminine hygiene.
“The chemicals that go into them could be part of the problem and it’s often difficult for women to see the problems they are causing until something hurts,” she added.
Increasing numbers of us are making an effort to invest in healthier, organic foods, so should we be doing the same for our tampons?
Experts estimate that a woman uses roughly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime and yet most of us know very little about what’s in them.
Most tampons contain a cotton and a synthetic rayon mix that’s been bleached and whitened with chlorine. Even those that are advertised as ‘natural cotton’ might not be as ‘natural’ as you think – many contain chemical fragrances or dyes. So what impact could these chemicals have on our bodies?
An absorbing issue
Some medical professionals argue that allowing harmful toxins to regularly come into contact with your skin could be even worse than ingesting them.
Physician Dr Joseph Mercola told the Huffington Post, “Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and also the thinnest. Less than one-tenth of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Worse yet, your skin is highly permeable — especially the skin in and around the vaginal area.
“Chemicals on your skin may be worse than eating them. At least enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break down and flush chemicals from your body. But when they touch your skin, they’re absorbed straight into your bloodstream, going directly to your delicate organs,” he added.
In particular, Mercola draws attention to the fact that many tampons contain dioxin, a by-product of using chlorine bleach to whiten the product. He suggests that even trace dioxin levels may be linked to:
- Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
- Abnormal cell growth throughout the body
- Immune system suppression
- Hormonal and endocrine system disruption
The FDA, which regulates the production and distribution of feminine hygiene products in the US, does not support this view, however. “There are allegations that some tampons contain toxic amounts of the chemical dioxin…State-of-the-art testing of tampons and tampon materials that can detect even trace amounts of dioxin has shown that dioxin levels are at or below the detectable limit. No risk to health would be expected from these trace amounts,” according to an FDA report on the subject.
Nevertheless, the US Environmental Protection Agency states that dioxin is a serious public health threat and there have been widespread calls for producers of feminine hygiene products to fully disclose their ingredients. In fact, a petition on change.org for Procter & Gamble to reveal what’s in their sanitary products has received 18,464 signatures to date.
As women grow increasingly aware of what’s going into their bodies, organic tampon brands that fully list their ingredients might just become a more attractive option for those who want to be fully informed.
Gina, from Bristol.