Firstly, lets all celebrate the end of tampon tax! No, tampons are definitely not a luxury item. Natural and organic beauty products are ever increasing in popularity, but feminine hygiene products are often not discussed. It is just as important to choose carefully the products that you use during your period, as it is the creams and shampoos you use on a daily basis. The UK sadly is somewhat lagging behind in the availability of natural health products, though it is slowly beginning to catch up with the US. This means you may need to shop around to find the best products or even opt for ordering online, if your local stores don't stock what your looking for. It just requires a bit of planning and organisation!
The best option is to select a product that is 100% organic cotton and not bleached with chemicals. One of the accessible natural brands in the UK are NatraCare. Their tampons are 100% organic cotton and they use an oxygen bleaching process from hydrogen peroxide, rather than chemicals such as chlorine. The chlorine bleaching process produces a by-product called dioxin. Dioxins are a known carcinogenic and pass easily into the body to be stored in the fat cells. The longer you are exposed to dioxins the higher the levels build in your body. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) state that dioxins are a serious health threat that has 'no safe level of exposure'. Dioxins have been linked to problems such as:
- Immune system suppression
- Hormonal and endocrine disruption
- Abnormal cell growth
- Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
Well known sanitary brands are made of roughly around 90% plastic! Natracare pads are made from organic cotton, bioplastics made from plant starch and wood pulp. This helps not only to reduce toxic waste from plastic production but also in reducing toxic plastic waste which ends up in landfill sites or littered in the oceans. And guess what? you can even compost your Natracare sanitary products. They are also free from animal testing and suitable for vegans/ vegetarians.
Manufacturing companies that make sanitary products are not required to label their products with the contents as sanitary products are considered to be medical devices! What?? Surely thats the wrong way round. Many of the popular brands of sanitary products contain toxic substances such as plastics such as BPA and BPS, phthalates and DEHP. They also contain odour neutralisers and artificial fragrances which are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Conventional tampons made with plastics such as rayon also become frayed and fibres can become detached, which can lead to hygiene issues and may be linked to TSS (see below) however, 100% cotton ones do not fray or leave behind any fibres. They also contain pesticides from GMO cotton being sprayed as a crop, another reason why buying organic is the best option.
TSS (AKA Toxic Shock Syndrome) - Symptoms include: high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, seizure, rash, aches/sore muscles, redness of eyes mouth and throat. To minimise risk, choose lower absorbency products, change regularly (at least every 4-6hrs), alternate between the use of sanitary pads and tampons and avoid plastic applicators which can cause damage when inserting. Also remember to use pads not tampons overnight.
There are other "Natural' companies, but as far as I can gather the cotton used is not organic, therefore likely to be made from a GMO crop and have been sprayed with pesticides. I would stick to the organic cotton as much as possible and try to keep a decent stock at home so you don't have to go into mad panic and run to the local corner shop to stock up and buy a brand most likely to be toxic to your health.
Natracare products can be bought online at Amazon or at Waitrose in the UK, check out www.natracare.com for locations where you reside based on country location! Morrisons and the Co-op supermarket are also currently planning to stock the Natracare product line. Watch this space!