We know it’s important to be mindful of what we put in our bodies, but it’s easy to forget that encompasses more than what we choose to eat. The average woman uses 10,000 sanitary products during her lifetime, yet few of us have considered what these pads and tampons are actually made of and the impact these ingredients could be having on our health.
1. They could increase your risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Synthetic, super absorbent tampons create a more fertile environment for staph bacteria to flourish, increasing the risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a study in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine suggests.
TSS is caused by complications of a bacterial infection and can lead to fever, headaches, vomiting, organ failure and even death. Though extremely rare, why take the risk? Opt for brands made with chlorine-free cotton (not rayon or plastic) instead, and never leave tampons in for more than a few hours at a time.
2. They may contain cancer-causing compounds.
Most tampons and sanitary pads contain chlorine-bleached cotton and rayon. This bleaching process creates a byproduct called dioxin, which is a known cancer-causing agent. A study in Environmental Health Perspectives found low levels of dioxin in four brands of tampons, and a report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 found that dioxin could have potentially serious health implications, including infertility and pregnancy complications at even ultra-low levels of exposure.
3. Your body is highly absorbent.
In light of the many forms of birth control that function by releasing hormones into the vagina, it should come as no surprise that our vaginas are highly absorbent. Unfortunately, just like these hormones are absorbed into our bloodstream to prevent pregnancy, so are the harsh chemicals and pesticides used in mainstream tampon brands. While the long-term health effects are still unknown, why not switch to a safer, more natural alternative if you’ve got one?
4. They’re not transparent.
While we can choose to avoid foods containing pesticides, preservatives and potentially harmful chemicals thanks to labeling laws, the same cannot be said for feminine hygiene products. Tampons are regulated by the FDA as “medical devices,” but they are not held to the same labeling standards as foods or personal care products, and not all of the materials may be disclosed or listed on the packaging.
The bottom line: Be as diligent about reading feminine product packaging as you are with your food labels. Next time you’re shopping, opt for tampons and pads, made with organic materials, to be kind to the planet and your body.
*Disclaimer: This post was researched and written by the eco-minded editors at mindbodygreen and does not reflect the opinions of the Honest Company.