We all know that most women have a period every month. But did you know that more than 70 percent of American women use tampons to manage their periods—and the average woman will use between 11,000 and 16,000 in her lifetime?
That’s a staggering number, even if it’s not altogether surprising. Then why is it that so many women put so little thought to what they’re putting in their bodies—and just reach for the closest tampon they can find when their periods come?
Think about it: When was the last time you stopped and considered your tampon choice? Or what kind of chemicals these boxes of tampons boasting “fresh scents” contain? Or whether there are healthier alternatives (like organic tampons) available? Although organic feminine hygiene products are becoming more and more popular, the default for most women is to buy whatever they are familiar with—the same products that their mothers, sisters, aunts, and friends have been using for years.
When we head to the grocery store, a lot more of us look for food that is all-natural or organic. That’s great—but what you put in your vagina every month should also be a top priority for your overall health. Especially since your vagina is the most absorbent part of your body.
Organic tampons offer many benefits, as opposed to the risks associated with conventional tampons, which can contain potentially harmful chemicals. From pesticides used to grow the cotton to the dioxins that form during the bleaching process, there are some important facts to know about the tampons sitting in your medicine cabinet—and how you can make a smarter choice to protect your health.
Conventional Tampons Just Don’t Live Up to Our Standards
For as long as tampons have existed (since 1931, by the way), there have been questions about what kind of chemicals they contain. While you may think it should be pretty easy to find out what’s in your feminine hygiene products, it’s really not. Our extensive research has led us to discoveries of what conventional tampons are really made of—and it’s not pretty. Since the FDA classifies tampons as medical devices, the companies that make them aren’t required to disclose a complete list of the ingredients or chemicals they contain.
While there have been efforts to increase the transparency of tampon brands by people like Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, who has continued to introduce legislation that requires the study of potential health risks, her bills have been denied every time. “American women deserve the ability to make informed decisions when buying feminine hygiene products,” Maloney has said. “Given the sheer number of women who use these products, it’s time we have definitive answers on their potential risks to women. Although the FDA requires tampon manufacturers to monitor dioxin levels, we still don’t know enough about the health risks of other chemical contaminants contained in these products. The Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act would enable research and a better understanding of additives in these products so that women can live healthy lives.”
We believe that taking risks in life can be beneficial (like quitting your boring 9-to-5 and starting that business you’ve always dreamed of), but we can’t say the same when it comes to women’s health.
So, What Do Non-Organic Tampons Contain?
Great question. The harmful ingredients found in conventional tampons are alarming, at best, and terrifying, at worst. But understanding exactly what you’re putting in your vagina (and what it can do to your body) will put you ahead of the learning curve and help you make health-conscious decisions. Some of the toxins that non-organic tampons can contain include:
- Chlorine. Tampons aren’t naturally white. Instead, they go through a bleaching process to make them that way. This chlorine eventually turns into dioxin. Yuck!
Dioxins. One of the most deadly toxic compounds, dioxin, is present in all humans, mainly through eating animal protein. The FDA reports that only trace amounts of dioxin are found in tampons and other feminine care products, but even trace amounts can cause serious health problems. Especially considering how many tampons the average woman uses and how easily your vagina absorbs anything that touches it.
Glyphosate. According to one study, 85 percent of tampons tested contained glyphosate, a popular herbicide commonly found in Monsanto’s RoundUp weed killer. The health issue with this? Cancer. No. Thank. You.
- Polyethylene, or PET. Widely used to create plastic bags and food containers, PET can flood your body with toxins like lead, cadmium, and mercury. You’ve probably been encouraged to use glass water bottles instead of plastic—and for good reason. The adverse effects of PET may only be magnified when you put it inside your vagina.
- Polypropylene. You wouldn’t put antifreeze or ink in your vagina, right? Sadly, most conventional feminine care brands use the same ingredient used in these products—Polypropylene—on the outside layer of tampons. This can cause inflammation and skin irritation on your lady parts. Hard pass.
Rayon. This is a cellulose fiber that comes from processed wood pulp. Because of the chemical process used to make rayon, it can be toxic to your health.
Tampons Made From Synthetic Materials are Bad News for Your Health
If that list of chemicals hasn’t made you run to your bathroom and throw your current box of tampons in the trash, this might. The dangerous ingredients used in many tampons are linked to serious health problems like cancer, birth defects, infertility, vaginal dryness, and hormone disruption. Not to mention that nearly all of them are known environmental pollutants. Though the FDA says it regulates the tampon industry, it would seem they’re not doing a particularly great job. With no full disclosure required, tampon companies are often inclined to use ingredients that make their products look “clean” and smell good to promote sales—instead of ensuring the safety and well-being of their users.
One of the potential (and scary) issues caused by conventional tampons is Toxic Shock Syndrome. Even with many cases reported, most traditional tampon brands aren’t taking action. TSS is a serious illness that can be caused by the chemicals in non-organic tampons, especially if you leave them in for longer than recommended (four to six hours). While you shouldn’t leave anything in your vagina for too long, there haven’t been any reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome from the use of organic tampons and only one reported case caused by a menstrual cup (though that woman left it in for three days—a big no-no, regardless of which product you’re using).
If you’re concerned about TSS, look out for these symptoms:
- Achy muscles
- Low blood pressure
- Redness of mouth, eyes, or throat
If you do have these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Toxic Shock Syndrome can be fatal if left untreated. We’re not trying to scare you, but we do want you to be fully aware of the possible side effects of using tampons full of dangerous chemicals.
Conventional tampons are also believed to contribute to abdominal cramps before your period. While there are other potential causes—whether you use tampons that are full of chemicals or promise your vagina to go organic—using products that contain toxic chemicals can only increase the chances of period pains because your body will actively try to dispel something it senses shouldn’t be inside of you.
We’re pretty sure you’re not into having health scares (or unnecessary period cramps). We certainly aren’t. Steering clear of tampons made from synthetic materials is crucial—your reproductive health depends on it.
The Problem with “Natural” (Non-Organic) Cotton (and the Benefits of Going with Organic Cotton Instead)
So, most tampons are made of cotton, right? Well, yes, most are. Some are made of synthetic blends of rayon, though. But for the brands that do use “natural” cotton, most are highly processed and treated with a lot of chemicals, because the term “natural” is not actually regulated with any specific standards of purity or ethical processing. The cotton industry uses large amounts of pesticides and insecticides to treat their crops, making them extremely toxic for your body. We won’t give you a long spiel about how cotton is produced, but we do want you to know the kind of harmful chemicals used to grow it—and what the other options are.
Some frightening facts about “natural” cotton:
- Globally, 25 percent of all insecticides and 10 percent of all pesticides are used to grow conventional cotton
- 94 percent of all US cotton is genetically engineered
- 24 percent of the world pesticides are used on cotton, while cotton accounts for only 2 percent of all crops.
Since conventional tampons are created with conventional cotton, this alone can pose a serious health risk. But organic cotton provides a safe alternative.
There are nearly 10,000 acres of organic cotton growing in the United States today. This means that, while conventional cotton is still dominating the industry, there are options for healthier materials. Organic cotton is used in a growing number of organic feminine hygiene products (including Cora tampons, obviously) and do not pose the risk to your vagina that their highly processed cousins do.
When you use conventional tampons, you’re essentially putting Monsanto in your vagina. You deserve better than that, lady. Seriously, we all do. Using tampons made from organic cotton eliminates your vagina’s exposure to toxic chemicals which she will thank you for by not becoming itchy, dry, or producing unnecessary discharge.
So, Why Organic Tampons?
You’re now more aware than ever about the dangers of using tampons from brands who don’t seem to value your health as much as their bottom line. That begs the question: Why switch to organic tampons?
So many reasons. For starters, many organic feminine products are biodegradable and hypoallergenic. The best are certified organic—meaning they use premium, organic cotton and don’t contain any ingredients that will do your body harm (bye-bye, Rayon, Dioxin, Chlorine, and pesticides!). On top of this, organic tampon companies, like Cora, deeply believe that women have the right to know what is in everything they use. Oh, and let’s not forget our BPA-free tampon applicators!
At Cora, our tampons are made of organic cotton, and our applicators are made of BPA-free plastic. That’s it!
The real question, then, should be: Why still use conventional tampons? Brands that hide their ingredients from consumers are no good, in our book. Choosing organic tampons benefits you and helps move the female population towards healthier, more informed menstrual product choices.
Organic Tampons Aren’t the Only Things on Our Mind
While we’re proud of our commitment to giving women access to organic tampons, we’re also focused on women’s overall health. From the food you eat to the makeup you put on your face, it’s important to choose products from brands that value transparency and the integrity of what they sell you. How we can make our bodies healthier and lives better is constantly at the top of our minds. And we want it to be at the top of yours, too. Whenever you’re shopping for a new product, consider whether it’s beneficial to your health and well-being. Do a little research to find out what chemicals they contain and how they impact your body and mind. It may take a few minutes longer, but you’ll rest easy knowing that you’re making good choices for yourself.
A question that many women ask when they first start their menstrual cycle is, “Do tampons hurt?” While they can take some practice to insert comfortably when you first start using them, it’s your overall health that could really be hurt. This isn’t the case with organic cotton tampons, however. The more you use organic tampons, the better your chances of maintaining your reproductive health are. Do your body a favor and ditch the toxin-filled tampons and replace them with the best organic tampons you can find.