When it comes to tampons and pads, what's health got to do with it?
By Emerita on July 22, 2011
A lot, it turns out. Here are 9 reasons you (and your daughters, sisters and friends) just may want to change your brand.
Tampons and pads are probably the last thing you want to think about, right? Out of sight, out of mind! Unfortunately, it’s what you’re not thinking about that could be the problem.
As the women of Emerita set out to launch a new brand of tampons and pads, here are a few things we learned along the way:
1: Most tampons and pads are not made of cotton.
We asked a number of women what they think their tampons are made of, and without exception, we heard the word “cotton.” And, true, if you read the ingredient label on your tampon box (be forewarned: you’ll need a magnifying glass), it probably lists cotton – along with a bunch of other ingredients, like rayon, polyester, polyethylene, perfume, and something referred to as “fiber finishes,” whatever they are.
Pads and pantyliner packages often don’t list ingredients at all. But you can learn a few things yourself by taking apart pads and examining what they’re made of. Many brands have plastic cover sheets. Even pads you buy at natural product retail stores probably contain filler made from wood pulp.
Cotton is naturally breathable, hypoallergenic and absorbent. Companies are going to a lot of trouble to manufacture materials that are kind of like cotton, but when all is said and done, they simply are not cotton.
2: That vaginal itching you experience from time to time may have something to do with the kind of pads or tampons you use.
Your vagina is like an ecosystem and it doesn’t take much to upset its delicate balance. Health experts agree: the number one way to avoid yeast infections? Wear cotton underwear. They also suggest avoiding scented tampons and pads. Cotton is naturally breathable and naturally wicks moisture.
Many pads and pantyliners feature plastic coversheets. Some tampons have polyethylene components. So check the labels, and be sure you’re choosing breathable cotton.
3: Toxic Shock Syndrome did not go away after Rely Tampons were taken off the market back in the early ‘80s.
Every box of tampons sold in the United States carries a warning label as a result of a wave of Toxic Shock Syndrome deaths in the late 1970s that were linked to the use of super-absorbent tampons. One brand of tampons associated with the outbreak—Rely—was taken off the market, and warning labels were made mandatory.
But Toxic Shock Syndrome (often referred to as TSS) didn’t go away. It just didn’t make big news any more. The warning labels state that the incidence of TSS is 17 in 100,000 women. But because the symptoms of TSS resemble the flu, it may be under-reported.
In the 1990s another round of menstrual TSS research was done, and this time it showed that the TSS bacteria grew in tampons made with rayon, but not in cotton tampons. The independent study’s lead researcher, Dr. Philip Tierno, has advocated against rayon tampons ever since.
And TSS is in the news again lately, the result of a social media campaign started by family and friends of Amy Elifritz, a 20-year-old whose death has been linked to menstrual TSS. Here’s a blog post her mother made in an effort to educate women about the dangers of TSS. And here’s a TV news story about Amy Elifritz in which the researcher Dr. Philip Tierno is interviewed.
5: The rayon in your tampons may contain minute traces of dioxin, a carcinogen.
Cotton is required to be processed with Totally Chlorine-Free methods, but rayon isn’t. Rayon undergoes a chlorine-bleaching process that has been shown to leave behind tiny, tiny traces of dioxin. There have not yet been long-term studies on the health effects of this, so no one knows what the results of those thousands of trace exposures could be. So if you don’t want to take chances, choose 100% cotton tampons.
6: Organic Tampons = Pesticide-free.
What you put in your body matters. Conventionally-produced cotton is one of the most-heavily sprayed crops on the planet. Organic cotton isn’t just friendlier for the environment, it’s friendlier for you. Enough said.
7: Typical tampons tend to shed fibers more readily than cotton tampons.
Put one of our 100% Organic Cotton Tampons in a water glass… and place a typical tampon in another water glass…and watch what happens. Over the course of an hour or so, you’ll notice the other tampon is shedding fibers. Tampons should be about removing stuff from your body, not leaving stuff behind, right? Our tampons are designed for minimal fiber loss, because when fibers are left behind, there’s a chance for bacteria to grow on them. Eww!
In the glass on the left sits a conventional tampon, on the right a 100% Organic Cotton tampon. Both have been sitting in the water glasses for the same amount of time.
8: The average woman will use about 12,000 tampons in her lifetime.
Before you dismiss that tampon or pad as the feminine hygiene equivalent of a paper towel or a Kleenex, consider that tampons are essentially something that’s ingested. The average woman will use 12,000 tampons in her lifetime. She’ll wear each one for about 4-6 hours, so she’ll spend the equivalent of 6-8 years of her life wearing a tampon.
9: Maybe it’s time to stop buying whatever’s cheapest…and to really think about what’s best for you.
Just like organic produce is more expensive to grow and produce than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic cotton is more expensive to process than rayon and other materials.
As a woman-owned-and-operated natural product company whose mission is “improving the health and lives of women,” it wasn’t a hard decision at all to get into the natural cotton feminine hygiene business. Someone’s got to carry the torch high. Someone’s got to help spread the word and to get women to think differently about their tampons and pads. That’s why our message is: What you put in your body matters.
If you agree, help us spread the word. Here are a few easy ways to do it:
1. Check out our educational web site ChangeYourTampon.com.
We put the health message front-and-center, where it belongs. It’s an easy (and entertaining) way to learn about the benefits of cotton. Pass the word along to your sister, friend or daughter.
2. “Like” us on our Emerita facebook.
We’ll be posting the latest news there. And fun stuff about healthy tampons and pads. Because life is too short (and our mission is too important) to be boring about it! We promise to make you think… and make you smile.
3. Join our email list for more.
We promise not to spam you. And you can unsubscribe whenever you like. It’s just another way to be a part of the conversation … and the cause.
4. Vote with your dollars.
Buy 100% organic cotton tampons, and help make cotton the norm, rather than the exception. There are a number of brands on the market. Learn more about ours here.