Are Tampons Dangerous?
A common question that many women have is, “Are tampons dangerous?” The short answer is no, not usually but in some cases they can be. I’ll outline a few of the dangers of tampons and then offer some thoughts on alternative methods of managing your menstrual cycle. The good news is that there are a ton of great options out there.
Tampon Danger #1: Toxic Shock Syndrome
We’ve all heard of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from the warning labels that come on any package of tampons that you buy. Toxic shock syndrome is a bacterial infection that can lead to organ damage and even death. When it does occur, it’s often with the super-absorbent tampons that are left in for a long time, including overnight (Heavy period? See this post for how to deal it).
The fact is that while toxic shock syndrome does happen, it is quite rare. However, you should try to minimize your use of super-absorbent tampons, change tampons frequently and alternate with pads, especially overnight. Use the minimum absorbency of tampon you can get away with it. For example, don’t use a jumbo tampon when your flow is relatively light. It’s better to use a mini tampon and change it every few hours in this case.
Better yet, consider not using tampons at all! Keep reading for alternatives.
Tampon Danger #2: Chemicals
Non-organic tampons contain a variety of chemicals from the growing and manufacturing process that you’re inserting directly into your vaginal canal. There have been no long-term studies about the effects of this but common sense would tell you that the more you can reduce the chemicals entering your bloodstream, the better off you’ll be.
To compound the problem it’s not 100% known what’s in disposable pad and tampons.This is because they’re classified as “medical devices by the FDA.” This means that companies don’t have to disclose the materials used to make them. Hopefully this will change soon.
Tampons contain the following harmful chemicals:
- Dioxins + Trihalomethane. Tampons are often made from rayon and during the processing of this product, dioxins are release. It’s extremely toxic and shouldn’t be near out bodies. Women exposed to high levels of it are at risk for a whole host of things including infertility and cancer. During the bleaching process, more dioxins and Trihalomethane are released at sometimes dangerous levels. The result is that trace amounts can sometimes be found in sanitary napkins and tampons.
- Glyphosate. Also known as the pesticide Roundup, this product is used to grow cotton. The WHO recently linked this chemical to cancer and in a recent study it was found that 85% of feminine hygiene products contained traces of it. Putting this next to your skin on a consistent basis certainly isn’t a good thing.
- Odor neutralizers + Fragrances. In order to make your sanitary pads and tampons smell good, even more chemicals are used. Repeated exposure to fake smells can lead to numerous health problems including cancer, hormone disruption and birth defects.
Tampon Danger #3: GMO’s
A recent study found that 94% of cotton produced in the USA is genetically modified. There have been no long-term studies on whether this is safe, or not. However, almost all GMO products have been banned in places like Europe. This has caused me to think twice about having anything to do with GMO products, no matter what the US government says. Consider doing the same, until there are more long-term studies with GMOs.
Hopefully that answered your question, “Are tampons dangerous?” Lets’ get into some of the safer alternatives to tampons.
Safer Alternatives to Tampons: Cloth Menstrual Pads and Menstrual Cups
If you’re concerned about your health, consider switching to a menstrual cup or cloth menstrual pad. Menstrual cups from reputable companies (Lunette, Diva Cup, Moon Cup) are made from the highest quality medical grade silicone and are manufactured according to the highest standards. Cloth menstrual pads, after washing them, are free from much of the chemicals that are found in disposable pads. Better yet, you can even buy an organic cotton pad that is free of any chemicals.
Both options are also far better for your pocketbook as a menstrual cup (around $30) or cloth menstrual pads (around $5/pad) can both last for years. Compare this to typical period where you’ll spend $10+ on a box of tampons, as well as pads. In less than six months, you’ll make back your initial investment.
Menstrual cups and reusable pads also are a much better choice when you consider the environment. Think about all that plastic going into the landfill from disposable products. And now imagine the difference it would make for our Earth if all women knew about reusable products and used them consistently. These are certainly products you can feel good about using.
Are Tampons Dangerous? Let’s Sum This Up
While the companies who manufacture tampons and sanitary napkins certainly will claim that they’re the safe, the fact is that they contain harmful chemicals. Even in small doses, it’s likely not great to expose your body repeatedly to them like you do when you’re wearing tampons and pads. And toxic shock syndrome, although it’s rare does happen and when it does, it’s serious.
So, are tampons dangerous? The information is conflicting, so you’ll have to make your own decisions about whether or not tampons are dangerous.
However, in light of these two factors, it’s certainly not a risk I’m willing to take with my own health and I made the switch to a Diva Cup a few years ago. I only wish that I’d done it sooner.
More Information about Menstrual Cups:
If you want to buy a menstrual cup, the place you’ll need to start is: Top 10 Menstrual Cup Brands-Reviews, Comparisons and Advice you can Trust. Menstrual cups are usually in the $20-30 USD range and can last for years. There is a bit of a learning curve to menstrual cups so don’t give up too soon. Most women need a few cycles to get the hang of them. Try them out and see for yourself.
The are better for the environment, will save you a ton of money, and make your body happier! No more chemicals, or risk of TSS.
More Information about Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads:
If you’re considering a cloth menstrual pad, you’ll need to check out these reusable menstrual pad reviews for some advice on choosing the right one for you. There are a range of sizes, just like disposable pads, from panty-liners to overnight ones.
Like menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads have the advantage of reducing waste, saving your money, as well as not putting chemicals and pesticides next to your body.