Tampons- The Planet’s Most Extreme Case of PMS

If you’re like most women, you'll use as many as 11,000 tampons during your lifetime. Add to that a couple of thousand pads and panty liners, and the ecological impact of your monthly cycle really starts to add up. Particularly egregious are the plastic applicators that come with some tampons. They can escape from any landfill- or wastebasket, for that matter- and plop down in a lake, river, playground, or just about anywhere else you’d rather not see them. The darn things are so indestructible even a car can run over them and not destroy them.

Conventional products may contain a mixture of rayon and cotton. Rayon has been implicated in toxic shock syndrome, particularly for superabsorbent tampons. Cotton is highly pesticide-intensive; 25 percent of pesticides used globally are devoted to growing cotton. To look as white as possible, conventional pads and tampons are usually bleached with chlorine, a process that can create dioxin, a known carcinogen.

Tampons, pads, and panty liners made from organic cotton are becoming increasingly available online and in the marketplace. If you’re going to use conventional products, choose those sold in the simplest packaging.

Options:

O.b. tampons come in a small box with no applicator. They’re compact and easy to use, and take up very little room in your purse.

Original-style Tampax are wrapped in paper and have a cardboard applicator that breaks down relatively quickly if they happen to get loose in the environment. They’re preferable to the Pearl brand, which has an almost indestructible plastic applicator and is wrapped in coated paper.

Natracare and Seventh Generation chemical-free, nonchlorine-bleached biodegradable pads, panty liners, and tampons are available from natural food stores and food co-ops, as well as online.

The DivaCup is worn internally like a birth control diaphragm. It may require emptying two to four times a day depending on your flow. This reusable option generates no trash, but is not quite as convenient as a tampon. Some women swear by it; others think it’s, well, pretty messy. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Want more eco-friendly personal hygiene tips? Click here.

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6 Responses to Tampons- The Planet’s Most Extreme Case of PMS

  1. JessTrev September 17, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    There are also cloth pads – LunaPads is one maker and there are a zillion little etsy shops that sell them too. Another option for those who think the DivaCup or Keeper is “messy”!

  2. Stephanie Robin September 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    Thank you for posting such important information. It’s scary what we do to our bodies. My name is Stephanie Robin and I am fighting Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. I was first diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 36. Until cancer touched my life I had never heard of the Breast Cancer (BRCA) gene and had no clue that I was a carrier. I have been sharing my story through my organization, THINK PINK. Each day I am horrified at the number of people I meet who still don’t know that such a gene exists. I am on a mission to share the facts so that my daughter and others have a fighting chance.
    I need your help! We’re hosting a charity concert called THINK PINK ROCKS on Oct 3, 2009 in Boca Raton, FL – I’m so excited to see AKON, Melanie Fiona, Shontelle and American Yard! So, if you’re in South Florida I would love to see you. Proceeds will benefit breast cancer charities and research organizations. Buy your tickets at http://www.thinkpinkrocks.com and while you’re there read the facts about the BRCA gene. You can also click to be counted and acknowledge that you now have the information that could save your life or the life of someone you love. Our goal is to collect one million clicks by Dec. 31, 2009. Share this link with your friends and family. It’s too important not to. Thank you, Stephanie Robin. XOXO

  3. Diane MacEachern September 26, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    Thanks so much for the invite. I won’t be in Florida, but I hope others who see this will join you. Good luck with the event.

  4. Jan M. September 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    Don’t rule out a moon cup too quickly…. I’ve found they are actually more convenient, more comfortable and no more messy than tampons.
    Tampons are popular because marketers can make a lot of money selling us a new box every month, not because they are the best option!

  5. Greenblogreader September 30, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    The cup is awesome. I’ll never go back to tampons.

  6. Be A Green Bean September 30, 2009 at 6:14 pm #

    I use the Diva cup and yes, it’s messy, but it’s what my body produces. I can really see just how much flow I have, which is something I was out of tune with before when I used tampons. I have kids, so dealing with this isn’t a big deal. I won’t go back to tampons since my cup doesn’t creep down like some tampons do. It took a few tries to find the best way to put it in, but like with many things in life, the effort was worth it. I also use cloth pads to back up the cup, just like with a tampon, and I couldn’t be happier.
    Diane, I’m disappointed. (Since I like your blog so much!) I don’t understand why you would recommend original Tampax and O.B. In your post. You introduced information about how bad the conventional ones are, and told us about the chemicals and how rayon contributes to toxic-shock syndrome. So, why recommend the very ones that have those things? The absence of an applicator or a cardboard applicator isn’t good enough of a reason to recommend them since the tampons themselves are heinous. The only ones worthy of recommending are the NatraCare and Seventh Generation, but, even these contribute to landfills and go down the sewer. The pads also still use plastic and glues. It’s best to get away from this stuff altogether and try to go to something that doesn’t need to be bought over and over again.
    Speaking of cost, I invested about $36 in my Diva cup and a set of 6 cloth pads (from Etsy dot com). To buy conventional stuff all year, I need to spend about $240/year. Big difference. I feel a sense of freedom now that I am not obliged to support these companies every month. No more last-minute trips to the store!
    Another reason to go paper-free is comfort. I hated the uncomfortable cotton tampons; I can’t feel the Diva cup at all, and, it doesn’t slip down. Also, I hated the paper liners and pads. They made me sweaty, and the sticky stuff would inevitably get stuck to my leg – or other places – due to movement. I love my cloth pads that just snap in place. They feel like my underwear and they breathe better. They mold (take shape) to my body and are soft. So comfy! I now don’t have such a bad time during “that time.” I’m actually ok with it. Since I have changed over I feel really good on so many levels. Please try using a cup/sponge and cloth pads. You may like it as much as I do.

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