I’ve Used Tampons for More Than 20 Years and Never Worried About Chemicals Until Now
By Sydney Kronfle, pH Labs Researcher & Contributor
Let’s talk about tampons and other menstrual products. I know. This is not normally my preferred topic of discussion either, but if you are a menstruating woman and/or have a daughter or woman in your life who you love or care about who gets a period, then this is an important blog for you to read.
I have been using tampons for more than 20 years. It wasn’t until I turned 37, (I’m now 38), that I started buying organic tampons. I honestly never gave much thought to what is in the tampons I use, but I figured I eat organic as much as possible and use clean skincare products so why wouldn’t I go organic with my tampons? Also, when I was a teenager organic tampons were not a thing. I was just told to stay away from scented tampons as these could make you more prone to skin irritations and other lovely things we don’t like to discuss like yeast infections.
My boss recently sent me a Medical Xpress article about endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in a variety of menstrual products. This got me thinking - Are these chemicals found in organic menstrual products? For all of those years I was not using organic, how may this have affected my body?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can mimic or block the natural hormones your body makes, the National Institutes of Health says, potentially affecting your fertility, risk for cancer, thyroid function, immune system and more. These potentially hormone-wrecking chemicals may come from pesticides, certain fragrances, stain-resistant coatings, plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys and cosmetics. They can even be found in the dust in your home.
It would be difficult for us all to completely avoid EDCs, but I think it’s pretty infuriating that research has found EDCs present in many different kinds of menstrual products.
“Vaginal and vulvar tissue that touch pads and tampons is highly permeable,” according to the Medical Xpress report.
“Through this permeable tissue, chemicals are absorbed without being metabolized, which makes endocrine-disrupting chemicals potentially dangerous when found in menstrual products.”
The research referenced in the Medical Xpress report discusses studies that measured chemicals in menstrual products in the United States, Japan and South Korea. These studies also assessed human biomarkers of chemical exposure. The results revealed that EDCs were found in tampons, pads and liners.
“The study found that menstrual products contain a variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including phthalates, volatile organic compounds, parabens, environmental phenols, fragrance chemicals, dioxins, and dioxin-like compounds.”
PFAS, called ‘forever chemicals,’ have also been found in period panties which have become very popular in recent years. Research is still needed on menstrual cups and disks.
“Hundreds of everyday products are made with highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS. They build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment. Very small doses of PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases,” according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
“For decades, chemical companies covered up evidence of PFAS’ health hazards. Today nearly all Americans, including newborn babies, have PFAS in their blood, and more than 200 million people may be drinking PFAS-tainted water.”So what about organic menstrual products?
According to a 2022 article by Environmental Health News, five popular tampon brands, including two labeled as organic, had detectable levels of a PFA.
How can we be proactive?
This is very personal, because, of course, every woman has her preference with the variety of menstrual products out there. For example, price and convenience may be factors to consider. Furthermore, this issue is a challenge because not all menstrual product manufacturers are required to disclose their ingredients.
“The FDA regulates and classifies menstrual products as medical devices, meaning they are not subject to the same labeling laws as other consumer items. But companies can voluntarily disclose what’s in their products,” according to a 2023 article from PBS News Hour.
“Now, some states are stepping into the breach. In 2021, New York became the first state to enact a menstrual product disclosure law requiring companies to list all intentionally added ingredients on packaging. California’s governor signed a similar law that took effect this year, but it gives manufacturers trade secret protections, so not all ingredients are necessarily disclosed.”
Although this is some progress, it certainly is not enough and it is still very frustrating. Nevertheless, I think we can be proactive by doing our research and being in tune with key processes and the difference between certain types of menstrual products. For example, try to find brands that are transparent about the bleaching process.
“Over the years, manufacturers have modified the bleaching process to minimize dioxins in these products. Dioxin levels in tampons are much lower than FDA limits, and even lower than from exposure through food. Period cups do not contain dioxins, as they are usually made of medical grade silicone; neither do period panties (but do check that these are free of chemicals known as PFAS),” according to Harvard Health.
Look for key words on packaging such:
- Unbleached or chlorine-free bleach
- Plastic-free packaging
- Plastic-free applicator or no applicator
You can also be proactive by bringing this concern up with your gynecologist.
It is also important to be mindful of EDCs when it comes to incontinence products and diapers (I have a baby in diapers). This can all feel scary and overwhelming, but having the knowledge and just minimizing your exposure as much as possible is better than being completely in the dark about this issue.
Don't forget about diet.
The truth is we do live in a world with a lot of chemicals, pollutants and toxins. It is very important to combat this as much as possible by maintaining a healthy, nutrient-dense diet.
You can also help regulate your hormones by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole, natural foods. And according to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, having a healthy balance of selenium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iodine may help balance your hormones. Also focus on getting plenty of cruciferous veggies and dark, leafy greens.
Also be sure to take a comprehensive nutrient test to identify any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies you may have. If you discover you are not nutritionally balanced, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
You might also consider taking a toxins test. This test will reveal what toxins are accumulating in your body, and a competent healthcare professional can work with you on developing a plan to fight this build up of toxins.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional healthcare team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.