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Do you know what’s in your tampons?

You should. And here’s why

In recent years there have been a lot of developments in the area of menstruation and women’s health, and subsequently more options when it comes to dealing with our period. From menstrual cups to organic pads and tampons, there are now more products at our disposal, as well as more information on what should and shouldn’t be going into our vaginas and why. But is all the bad press around regular menstruation products, such as the humble tampon, just a marketing ploy or is there some truth to it?

Women’s health advocates have been conducting extensive research into feminine-hygiene products and the results have been ever-so-slightly disturbing. Here is what you need to know about what’s inside your tampons, why you should care, and whether you should be investigating making a switch to more ecofriendly and health-friendly alternatives.

Related: Period leave may become a reality

Unregulated ingredients

Sanitary products fall under the category of ‘medical advice’, which means that companies that produce them aren’t obligated to disclose the ingredients in pads and tampons. While some brands opt to put some of the ingredients on the box, they often don’t disclose everything, so no transparency there.

And since many tampons are made up of cotton that is farmed using harsh pesticides and other dangerous carcinogens, we are sure that manufacturers are going to exercise their right to not disclose this information to the public, despite the risk to our health.

Chlorine and bleach

These days, many organic sanitary-product brands boast that they are chlorine-free on the box, because most well-known brands do have chlorine and other bleaches in them. Chlorine is used to whiten the tampons and disinfect any raw materials, which might sound like a good thing, but harsh chemicals such as these can adhere to the fibres and are then absorbed into the body and can cause serious health problems, from abnormal tissue growth to cancer.

These fibres can also be left behind in the vaginal canal when tampons are removed, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and even causing toxic shock syndrome, which can be life-threatening.

Related: Here’s what to expect when you come off the Pill

Super suction

Our vaginas are really absorbent. Tampons not only absorb a lot of the moisture vaginas need to remain healthy, but if there are traces of nasty chemicals on your sanitary products, there is a high, almost definite chance, that they will be absorbed into the body.

This is because the permeable mucous membranes that line the vagina and that are meant to protect us from bacteria are irritated by and can absorb toxins easily. And since the long-term effects of the chemicals used to make tampons on our bodies is still unknown, is it worth the risk?

So what should you do?

Until such time as manufacturers of feminine-hygiene products are forced to be more transparent about what goes into their wares, making a switch to menstrual cups and organic products is a safer option. If that isn’t a viable possibility, educating yourself on the risks associated with using tampons is the next best thing.

PHOTO: iStock/gregory_lee


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