From puberty to menopause, the average woman uses a total of 11,000 tampons. The tampon industry is a highly lucrative business in perpetual boom. The environmental impact of tampon and sanitary pad refuse alone is overwhelmingly huge.
But here's an unsettling thought. The majority of feminine care products such as pads, panty liners and tampons do not feature a list of ingredients on their packaging. Why is that? The few that do have the ingredients listed, like that of some tampon companies, consist of non-specific and/or vague terminology. This approach is arguably used to make us feel comfortable enough (and possibly ignorant enough) to buy them. In reality the actual ingredients, found in tampons specifically, are extremely harmful to both our health and the environment in countless ways. And many of the ingredients found in tampons may significantly affect your fertility.
Here is a list of just some of the dangerous ingredients found in tampons and/or sanitary pads:
Polyacrylate is a highly absorbent polymer made from acrylic acid and sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye and caustic soda. Lye is a highly corrosive material used in the manufacture of soap. Acrylic acid is also highly corrosive and can severely irritate the respiratory tract and skin. Despite all of this, polyacrylate is used for its absorbent properties in the making of sanitary pads and diapers.
This synthetic fiber is actually made from water, air, coal and petroleum in a chemical reaction with alcohol and acid. Polyester is included in the manufacture of sanitary pads because while it does not absorb moisture, it absorbs oils. Polyester is used to make the liners of the sanitary pads. The wrappers, coating and applicators of tampons are also made with polyester. A 1993 study concluded that polyester underwear decreases sperm count and sperm motility in men. And not only does the production of polyester require an exorbitant amount of water to produce, the petroleum that is used in its manufacture is a well-known non-renewable resource. The majority of synthetic polyesters are also not biodegradable.
Polypropylene and Polyethylene
These two thermoplastic polymers, like polyester, are used in the making of wrappers, the packaging of feminine products and for the manufacture of sanitary pads themselves. Polypropylene and polyethylene are both considered skin irritants and do not facilitate proper airflow. If air does not flow freely 'down there,' bacterial infections, yeast infections and painful rashes can often occur.
Rayon is derived from wood pulp (naturally occurring polymers), but is considered a semi-synthetic product as it is manufactured through a 16-step chemical process, which includes a chlorine bleaching process that creates Dioxin, an extremely toxic chemical. It is the rayon that makes tampons highly absorbent, which in turn increases the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The rayon and polyester found in tampons can lead to scratches and ulcerations of the labia, cervix, vagina and vaginal wall when tampons are inserted and/or removed. Rayon and polyester fibers can also be left behind to chemically irritate interior vaginal tissue - and even worse - enter the blood stream where it can wreak additional havoc.
Conventionally grown cotton is sprayed with several carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides. Five of the top nine pesticides used to treat cotton crops are known carcinogens, according to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These include cyanide, dicofol, trifluralin, propargite and naled. Dicofol disrupts the endocrine system and negatively affects estrogen. Trifluralin also disrupts the endrocrine system, but instead negatively affects metabolism and the reproductive system in its entirety. After harvesting conventional, non-organic cotton, the product is also treated with chlorine bleach just like that of rayon. This process allows the cotton to be manufactured into consumer products, resulting again in the creation of Dioxin.
We have blogged about Dioxin in a previous post. Learn how Dioxin affects your entire reproductive system and the environment here.
There are many healthy, all-natural alternatives to the mainstream line of feminine care products out there just waiting for you to try them. Just some of these include cloth menstrual pads, menstrual cups and organic cotton tampons and pads. Do some research, make the switch, reduce your environmental impact and improve your health and fertility today!