GreenYour Feminine hygiene
Choose organic tampons or organic pads
Choosing organic tampons or pads will help reduce the environmental damage caused by the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in the farming of conventional cotton. Many organic products are unbleached or non-chlorine bleached, which limits your personal exposure to dioxin, a probable human carcinogen.
What to look for when choosing organic tampons and pads
- The USDA Organic Seal: While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains clearcut standards for organic food, the same can’t be said for personal care products. Without strict standards, companies can claim that their product is organic and still contain up to 30 percent synthetic or conventional materials. To be sure that the product you choose uses all organic materials, look for the USDA seal or the label "100% Organic" on the box. These labels guarantee that every ingredient is organically produced as defined by the National Organics Standards Board, which bans the use of harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetic engineering. (Half the cotton grown in the world is genetically modified, and studies have shown that genetically modified organisms pose significant environmental risks and cause some insects to become resistant to pesticides.)
- Unbleached sanitary items or those bleached without chlorine: The fibers used to make tampons (cotton and rayon) and pads (processed wood pulp) are usually bleached with chlorine. Chlorine bleaching is a source of dioxin, a known carcinogen that can also, with prolonged exposure, cause endometriosis. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asserts that the amount of dioxin present in today's tampons is negligible, experts counter that dioxin in tampons is still a concern, as it comes in contact with the most absorbent tissue in the body. The jury is still out because effects of dioxin are cumulative and can therefore be detected in the body 20 to 30 years after exposure.
- Tampons and pads from companies that do not employ animal testing: While you're contemplating green attributes, you may also wish to join the cruelty-free movement. Just keep in mind: a company may claim that they don’t employ animal testing for their products, but without third-party verification, it’s hard to know whether these statements are in fact completely true. So stick to those products certified as cruelty-free by looking for products with the Leaping Bunny Logo or the Certified Vegan Logo. You can rest assured that no bunnies (or monkeys or cats for that matter) were harmed in the making of these non-animal-tested products.
Find it! Organic tampons and pads
Organic tampons and pads are not necessarily more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Purchasing online may help you find a wider variety and deliver a better price. Or check out health food stores, like Whole Foods or your local co-op, which will most likely carry organic tampons and pads in-store. Also consider buying in bulk—it's cheaper than month-to-month purchases.
Natracare feminine hygiene products are made from only organic and natural ingredients. They contain no chemical additives, are biodegradable, and all materials are sourced from ecologically sound producers.
Organic Essentials certified organic cotton tampons are non-chlorine bleached and contain 100 percent organically grown cotton, no GMOs. Their certified cotton is grown on family farms in the United States and Organic Essentials is farmer-owned.
Leaping Bunny certified, Seventh Generation's line of women's personal care products is all chlorine-free. Their tampons are made of 100 percent organic cotton and are applicator free. Their products are free of irritating dyes or fragrances, and contain no rayon.
Choosing organic tampons and pads helps you go green because...
- It mitigates the environmental impact that growing conventional cotton for use in tampons and pads creates.
- Organic farming combats global warming through carbon sequestration.
- Organic tampons and pads that are not bleached with chlorine limit the creation of and exposure to dioxin.
It is estimated that cotton accounts for 11 percent of all pesticides and 24 percent of all insecticides used globally, even though it's grown on just 2.4 percent of the world’s arable land. In the US, it’s estimated that conventional cotton farms apply about one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested. The various chemicals used to treat conventional cotton can harm beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms, pollute ground and surface water, and adversely affect the health of humans and wildlife alike—including fish, birds, and livestock.
Almost half of the chemicals sprayed on global cotton crops annually—an estimated $2 billion worth—are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO). Pesticide residues remain in tampons in the form of dioxins and other potentially harmful chemicals. The vaginal walls are made of the most absorbent tissues in the body, so these chemicals are absorbed directly into the blood stream.
Organic farming combats global warming
Organic farming may also be key in fighting global climate change. A study of conventional versus organic farming methods by the Rodale Institute discovered that organic farming combats global warming through carbon sequestration. In agricultural applications, the more organic matter that is retained in the soil, the more carbon is sequestered. While conventional farming depletes organic matter through the use of chemical fertilizers, organic farming uses animal manure and cover crops, which actually build soil organic matter.
Organic farming further reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by using 37 percent fewer fossil fuels than conventional farming. The Rodale Institute estimates that if all 160 million acres of corn and soybean farmland in the US were switched to organic farming methods, it would be equivalent to removing 58.7 million cars from the road, and would satisfy 73 percent of the proposed US Kyoto targets for CO2 reduction.
The environmental consequences associated with post-consumer waste generated by disposable pads and tampons still apply even if the products you use are organic.
Related health issues
The most commonly associated health risk of tampon use, whether organic, unbleached, or otherwise, is toxic shock syndrome (TSS), more prevalent in women under the age of 25. A normally healthy bacteria found in warm, moist places of the body can sometimes produce toxins that lead to TSS. This disease has symptoms that are similar to a severe flu, and has been related to tampon absorbency.
- carbon sequestration: The process by which carbon is captured (in the form of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and incorporated into soil, ocean, and plant matter.
- dioxin: One of the most toxic known chemicals for which there is no safe exposure level for humans.
- genetic engineering: The process of merging the genetic makeup of two organisms to create a desired byproduct (called a genetically modified organism) that could otherwise not be found in nature.
- Delicious Living Magazine - The Pros and Cons of Tampons
- TreeHugger - How to Green Women's Personal Care See tip #9
- Natural Products Marketplace - Feminine Hygiene Goes Green
- Goddess Within - Natracare Tampons
- National Research Center for Women & Families - Tampon Safety
- Organic Consumers Association - Clothes for a Change: Background Info
- Sustainable Cotton Project - Who we are
- Straus Communications - Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils: The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial® Findings
- The New Farm - Organic farming combats global warming … big time