Have you ever wondered what was in your tampons?
I know I never have, until I heard about organic period products and reusable pads — then I took a look at my tampon box. There was no ingredient list, or anything definitive about what the product contained beyond cotton or rayon. I soon learned that period products are regulated as “medical devices", which means they are not required to disclose their ingredients. This felt wrong to me. Do we not deserve to know what we are putting in contact with our bodies?
The Women’s Voices For the Earth organization focuses on precisely this issue. They are calling for corporate transparency and new laws that will protect women and our environment from toxic chemicals. The organization has launched campaigns exposing the toxic marketing of Summer’s Eve products, some of which contain spermicide and vaginal irritants. They even tested Always Pads and found that they contain:
Not enough research has been done to establish how these chemicals affect our bodies but one thing is for sure: we have the right to know what is in our menstrual products, regardless of the effects. The vagina is a mucous membrane which means these ingredients are processed directly into the bloodstream. And the average American menstruator uses 12,000 period products in their lifetime. That is a lot of repeated exposure to unknown chemicals and toxins! Check out The Women’s Voices For the Earth website for more information, how you can help, and what products to avoid.
Taking action on this issue is beneficial for our bodies, wallets, and the environment. The average 12,000 products a menstruator uses contain single-use plastics, which means 12,000 tampons and pads are ending up in landfills. Disposable products are an economic waste as well. Personally, I spend around $15 per month on tampons and liners. Adding in some Midol and new undies I probably spend upwards of $200 a year on period related products. Other statistics report that the average woman spends $18,171 on periods in her lifetime. That is about $480 per year!
Luckily, there are a multitude of healthier and reusable solutions. The idea of reusable as opposed to disposable period products may sound far-fetched, even gross, but our bodies and our planet are more important than convenience. Periods have always been marketed to us as messy and inconvenient, something that needs to be doused in artificial fragrances and hidden. Reusable products reinforce the fact that our periods are not messy, they are natural and they are ours.
The Lunette is 100% BPA-free medical grade silicone and is completely biodegradable (and so is the packaging!). It comes in two sizes and offers up to 12 hours of protection. For cleaning, use a fragrance and oil free soap, which Lunette offers along with wipes. The cup may seem intimidating, but it offers you long lasting protection without exposing your body to hidden toxins or irritants. The Lunette is priced between $30-40, but it lasts for years and saves you from typical monthly spending.
Glad Rags offers reusable cotton pads and pantyliners, free of plastics, fragrance, adhesives, or gels. The pads have multiple inserts so you can adjust the absorbency, and they also offer a plus size. Glad Rags can be soaked and washed in a machine or by hand, and you can try and return them within ninety days for a refund. Glad Rags works with PERIOD, a non-profit organization that brings reusable products to menstruators in need. You can support PERIOD directly by purchasing Glad Rags and menstrual cups from their store.
THINX underwear uses 4-layers of fabric to hold up to two tampons worth— and they come in all different sizes and styles including, briefs, thongs and shorts. They can be easily rinsed, washed and reused. Period panties can be a one-stop shop for those with a light flow, or worn with a cup or a tampon for extra protection. Since its conception, THINX has worked to empower and provide people in need with period products and other resources. They work with schools and non-profit organizations including Safe Horizon and Girls Inc., so you know a purchase of THINX underwear is going a long way.
Hannah Calistri is a second-year anthropology student at NYU and a Copy Editor for The Rational Creature.