February 2, 2013

Genetically Modified Tampons? ~ Suzanne Bertani

Nothing but pesticides, petroleum, chemicals and possibly trace amounts of dioxin or flame retardants.

There have been very few things in my journey that I’ve recommended to ditch immediately after researching. I normally say save the cleaners, personal care products and processed foods, because you’ll always be in a pinch and can take the opportunity to use them up.

However, the one product I would say dispose of right away is traditional tampons.

A few days ago, I turned into a sleuth at a local store and snapped a photo of the materials listed on the back of a tampon box. Why? I really thought the materials listed would have changed since I first researched tampons four years ago.

When I first wrote this article, I was horrified to find out polyester was an ingredient in tampons. I was just starting to remove materials like polyester from being close to my family because one daughter has eczema and natural fibers were less irritating for her skin. The other part of researching polyester was finding out that flame retardant properties are naturally occurring in this material.

So if this is true, I still have to ask tampon manufacturers where polyester is used in the make-up of a tampon and what this petroleum based plastic is doing in a menstrual product.

Researching the exact materials and chemical components of tampons is difficult because this information is kept proprietary. Unlike personal care products such as makeup, tampons adhere to a different criterion of labeling because they are considered a medical device.

Kind of the same thing as sex toys being labeled as gag gifts so you don’t need to discover that plastic dildos are made from PVC—the most toxic form of plastic on the market. It’s beyond disgusting, especially since these products are used in such an intimate part of the body that is highly porous, and toxins thrive in tissue.

With spending so much of my life thinking about genetically modified food and how to avoid it, I had another really scary thought about traditional tampons. How do we know if they are made from genetically modified cotton—otherwise known as BT cotton?

This form of cotton is grown from GM seed and grows resistance to antibiotics. It adds a whole new layer to the cotton industry and for women that use non-organic tampons. Even conventional cotton is grown using heavy pesticides and we know toxins released into our body from pesticides like to live in fat cells.

The only positive difference I can find four years later with tampons is the industry changed their bleaching standards for the rayon (wood pulp) that is mixed with cotton for absorbency. But the fact is, trace amounts of dioxin can still exist from whitening and the heavy processing that occurs to make wood pulp a soft and fluffy form of rayon.

So, here we have the three active materials used in a tampon: polyester, cotton and rayon—nothing but pesticides, petroleum, chemicals and possibly trace amounts of dioxin or flame retardants.

We give our teenagers these products to use because they are straight forward, inexpensive, disposable and easy for them to manage. We need to think about teenage girls and their long-term health. Could tampon use over a 20 year period contribute to infertility problems, inflammatory disease and Endometriosis?

Since writing that first article about tampons four years ago, I really only made one permanent change to my routine. No tampons. If I have to go swimming in the summer with the kids, I buy organic cotton tampons. I always meant to try a Mooncup or Diva Cup, but I’m not a huge fan of silicone. For the most part I use reusable pads (Lunapads) and disposable pads for heavy days.

I encourage you to tell three people that might still be using traditional tampons. I think teenagers and young adults are the highest users. Use the graphic to think about the three main ingredients of traditional tampons and their level of toxicity.

Make the switch, tell three friends, make an impact.


Suzanne Bertani is a mom of four children and has been dedicated to a healthier journey blogging at mommyfootprint.com. A new focus of the blog is genetically modified food and with a full database of articles over the past 5 years, you will find answers to many common questions to avoiding toxic chemicals in your own life. Follow her on Facebook.



Assistant Editor: Sara McKeown

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