Feminine hygiene

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Use natural sea sponge tampons

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Sea sponges are completely natural absorbing agents, containing no dioxin, pesticide-treated conventional cotton, or synthetic fibers like disposable tampons. Sea sponges are reusable so they won't pile up in landfills month after month like disposable tampons. And, when you are ready to dispose of them, they're biodegradable and may therefore be composted.

What to look for when choosing natural sea sponge tampons

Sustainably harvested sea sponges: While all sea sponge tampons will reduce the amount of waste you create, you can make the most ecologically sound purchase by finding brands that are advertised as being sustainably harvested. Some environmentalists are concerned about over-harvesting, especially since so little is known about their importance to the food chain and potential medicinal uses. (It is known that sea sponges are the primary food source for the endangered hawksbill sea turtle.) Unfortunately, there is no certification body to verify these claims. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer for information on their harvesting practices.

Find it! Natural sea sponge tampons

Sea sponge tampons are not only earth-friendly, but wallet-friendly too. Conventional tampons can cost more than $24 per year, while organic tampons can cost more than $36 per year. Sea sponge tampons, on the other hand, an average of six months or longer, and usually come in a pack of twp for $9.

Using a natural sea sponge tampon helps you go green because...

  • It reduces the waste created by disposable tampons and pads.
  • They are not bleached with chlorine, a process that creates dioxin, a known carcinogen.

In 1999, about 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads, and 700,000 pantyliners were flushed down the toilet daily.[1] In the US and Canada alone, more than 12 billion pads and tampons are tossed annually. The average woman throws away between 10,000 and 15,000 tampons, pads, and applicators over her lifetime. [2]

Most of this waste is sent to landfills or incinerated. However, a good portion of it passes through sewage treatment plants, ending up in oceans, littering beaches, and harming wildlife. According to the Center for Marine Conservation, between 1998 and 1999, more than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along American coastlines.[3] Going reusable will eliminate your contribution to these problems entirely.

Bleaching and dioxin

The cotton in traditional tampons undergoes a chlorine bleaching process, which creates dioxin. Dioxin can seriously harm wildlife, is a known carcinogen, and, with prolonged exposure, can cause endometriosis.

About sea sponges

Although sea sponges may resemble a type of plant, they are actually the simplest multi-cellular animal, scientifically termed Porifera, meaning "pore-bearing". Sponges are harvested by divers, often from the Mediterranean Sea or off the coast of Florida, and have been used in a variety of ways for thousands of years. They are softer than manufactured cellulose sponges and so are favored for more delicate activities, such as applying makeup or by artists for painting and cleaning their tools.

Using a sea sponge as a tampon may be a little off-putting to some, or sound like a return to the days of old, but it's day-to-day use is very similar to a disposable tampon, and many say they are far more comfortable. Not convinced? Glad Rags offers detailed instructions on how easy they are to use and care for.

Controversies

A study looking at the rate of bacteria growth in the vagina during menstruation showed bacteria colonization in users of sea sponges to be higher than that in tampon-users. The study concludes, therefore, that sea sponges are not an effective alternative to tampons for women who are seeking to reduce their risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS, more prevalent in women under the age of 25, is caused when the normally healthy bacteria found in warm, moist places of the body produces toxins. The disease has symptoms that are similar to a severe flu, and has been related to tampon absorbency.

In 1980, the University of Iowa examined samples of sea sponges intended for menstrual use and found sand, grit, and bacteria present. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a premarket approval for any company wishing to sell sea sponges as a menstrual product and regards them as "significant risk devices." However, the makers of Sea Pearls insist that in the 35 years that they have sold sea sponges as menstrual sponges, they've never had a case of TSS or an infection reported. Their sponges are sterilized with hydrogen peroxide before they are put on the market, unlike tampons, which are not sterile upon purchase.

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