Article referenced from

If you’re currently using disposable sanitary pads or tampons, you might keen to read this below:

The Problem with Pads

Modern sanitary napkins or “pads” and tampons have definitely made feminine hygiene easier and more convenient, but everything comes with a price.

Environmental Concerns

From an environmental perspective, a tremendous amount of these products end up in landfills and water treatment facilities. An average woman will use over 16,000 tampons or pads (up to 300 pounds) in the course of her lifetime, sometimes more.Most of these products contain plastics, which are problematic in their own right and take a long time to break down. They also contain special chemicals and ingredients that make them able to absorb 10x their weight in liquid, but the effect of these chemicals have not been comprehensively studied for their affect on the environment.

Plastic Problems

I’ve written before about the dangers of plastic exposure, and we often don’t think about how things like pads can be a major source of plastic exposure.The labia and vaginal area is highly vascular, meaning that a lot of small blood vessels run to this area. The skin is also especially thin down there, making it easier for plastic chemicals to enter the body that way. Many pads and some tampons contain plastic chemicals and can even contain BPA and other plastic chemicals. From this article:

For example, plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS disrupt embryonic development and are linked to heart disease and cancer. Phthalates — which give paper tampon applicators that smooth feel and finish — are known to dysregulate gene expression, and DEHP may lead to multiple organ damage. Besides crude oil plastics, conventional sanitary pads can also contain a myriad of other potentially hazardous ingredients, such as odor neutralizers and fragrances. Synthetics and plastic also restrict the free flow of air and can trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting the growth of yeast and bacteria in your vaginal area.

Cotton or Not: Both can be a Problem

From watching commercials, you’d think that all tampons and pads are made up of entirely soft pillowy cotton from pristine white fields. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case.Some tampons and pads do contain cotton, but most contain rayon, a synthetic material. There is some evidence that synthetic fibers can pull too much moisture from the vaginal walls and stick to the soft skin there, leaving tiny synthetic fibers that may increase the risk of TSS, Toxic Shock Syndrome.

The tampons and pads that are actually made of cotton are usually bleached with chlorine (problematic on its own) or other chemicals.

Additionally, cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops and is often sprayed with a variety of pesticides.

Not really what you want being absorbed into your blood stream from one of your body’s most sensitive areas (that also happens to be part of your reproductive system!).

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

When I was a teenager, I read the warning labels in my tampon box one time and was scared to use tampons for months. Though rare, Toxic Shock Syndrome (or TSS) is a life threatening infection that can occur, especially with tampon use.Current theories suggest that the Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria cause the TSS infection and that wearing a tampon (with its rough surface) in the dark, warm and moist environment of the vagina can increase the chances of this infection.

Of course, this isn’t a risk with sanitary napkins, but they have their own risks and problems (plastics, chemicals, synthetic fibers, etc).

If you do use tampons of any type, make sure that you are aware of the symptoms of TSS and act quickly if you ever suspect you may have it

Natural Solutions

I suspect we will continue to find out more and more about the importance of avoiding chemicals in feminine hygiene products, but there are some great options already available.These options are a win:win. They are made with natural materials so they are safer for use, and they reduce or eliminate waste and environmental chemicals as well.

Organic/Natural Pads and Tampons:

If you want to stick with the convenience of traditional tampons and pads, at least opt for natural and/or organic ones. These have become much more widely available lately and are about the same price as regular options in many cases.

But of course, there are better options out there. Read more below to find out.

Parts of this article below referenced from

The facts are disturbing. Over a lifetime the average woman uses between 11,000 and 17,000 tampons and/or pads costing her anything from $5000 to $15,000.

In that time those tampons create up to 140kg of waste, leach chemicals into the environment and, when flushed down the toilet, cost a bundle to remove from our waste water system. They shouldn’t end up there but they often do. Europeans tend to bin tampons. British women are keener on flushing. No stats are available for New Zealand women but my money is on flushing. Binning is better, though not a lot if they’re wrapped in plastic and arrive in landfills that way.

Watercare surveys at the Mangere wastewater treatment plant in Auckland found 40 per cent of the material found in screenings should not have been flushed or washed down the sewer. The biggest offender was wipes making up to 45 per cent of that illicit material, followed by hard-wearing (not toilet) paper at 12-26 per cent.

Feminine hygiene products at 6-16 per cent were the third largest group of troublesome items to be caught in the system. Once extracted and dumped in a landfill, tampons may remain there for years before breaking down. Organic tampons decompose faster and are chemical-free but they cost more so they’re not the solution, just a less damaging option.

Then there’s the energy and chemicals required to make these products. Turning wood pulp and cotton into soft absorbent fibres is a resource-intensive business. These single-use items often contain non-biodegradable materials and chemicals such as polyethylene, polyester string and polypropylene. Some also contain fragrance ingredients and are chlorine bleached.

As for plastic applicators, they can be found littering beaches overseas and they foul the ocean.

It’s hardly news to anyone that swallowing plastic is a death sentence for fish. Add to that an unholy mix of wrappers, cardboard applicators and transportation and it’s clear those innocuous white plugs pack quite an environmental wallop.

The Best Options

Menstrual Cups & Cloth Sanitary Pads

Kate Meads, the New Zealand Nappy Lady blogger promoting waste-free parenting, believes it’s high time we changed our thinking.

“Go to any wastewater treatment plant and look at the bin with all the wipes, liners and tampons. It’s so gross. The biggest advantage of the menstrual cup is that there’s zero waste and, honestly, they’re way more comfortable.”

Meads insists discomfort only occurs when the cups aren’t inserted properly.

“I’ve used a menstrual cup for 12 years. If you have the right size, they should be comfortable. If they are not popped out fully, that is, if you put your fingers up inside and you can feel that the cup is slightly depressed, then it’s not popped out. If it’s not a firm shape, then it’s not sealed properly. Just give it a squeeze and twist.

“It took me two cycles to get used to it. Honestly, I’ve never had a spillage and I find it way cleaner than using anything else because everything is fully contained.”

For women reluctant to try menstrual cups Meads recommends resuable pads. She trialled them for her blog and found them absorbent and odour-free, thanks to new wicking technology.



So are you keen to make the switch and get started?

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