We live in a throwaway culture. Because it is easy. It is out of sight, out of mind, we do not have to see where the waste goes. Furthermore, we do not see the accumulated impact of our individualized contribution to trash over time.

The average woman will use around 16,000 or more tampons or pads in her lifetime which translates to some 250-300 lbs. waste. That’s 7 billion tampons and pads landing in landfills each year. This waste is compounded by 157 million women in the US = 47 billion lbs!  Add 260 million women in the EU = 78 billion lbs.  China has some 667 million women = 200 billion lbs!  Of the World’s 7.5 billion humans in 2017, roughly 49.6% of the population are women, which is a population of 3.8 billion, which amounts to 1.1 trillion lbs of trash. Of course, this number is not rooted in reality as this is a developed world problem, most women in developing nations do not have access to such products. But the environmental impact is not the only issue with tampons.

Health Risks of Tampons

Considering the chemicals and materials of the inserts, the vaginal area is thin-skinned and filled with small blood vessels making it easy for chemicals and plastic to be absorbed into the body. Substances you place inside your vagina may not go through the body’s typical elimination and metabolic processes. Chemicals are able to pass almost directly into your bloodstream.

One group of chemicals found in tampons are dioxins, a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process used to make tampons white. Dioxins have been classified by the World Health Organization as “highly toxic” and “known human carcinogen”.  Even though the bleaching process has evolved to greatly reduce the dioxin levels, there are still trace amounts that could accumulate in the body.

Pesticides from factory farmed cotton such as procymidone and piperonyl butoxide, which the EPA has determined to be a “probable human carcinogen”, can be found in popular brands. Then there is the plastic in applicators.

Solutions

First Step may be simply reducing your waste by switching to tampons without applicators which may create 58% less waste.

Menstrual Cups

Reusable menstrual cups have been around for a long time and many women prefer the cups as their solution. Visit Diva Cups and view their How-to guide here.

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Reusable Cloth Pads

Organic 100% Cotton Reusable Pads can be used instead of plastic wrapped disposable pads. These pads are absorbent and washable.

Brands include Lunapads, GladRags, and HestaOrganic

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Applicators

LOLA has 100% organic cotton tampons in compact BPA-free plastic applicators.

Resources:

Women’s Voices for the Earth

HelloFlo

Period Apparel

Thinx

Thinx washable period-proof exercise apparel. Read review here.

HestaOrganic

HestaOrganic has washable organic cotton Period Panties.

More on the topic:

Why Doesn’t Congress Care What’s In Our Tampons?

I remember shaking in the bathroom when I finally got my first period at sixteen, calling up my best friend who’d used tampons for years. How did she get it to go in? How was it supposed to fit up there? Could it get stuck? Though they were a normal …

The Truth About Your Tampons

Some experts worry that the chemicals used to make tampons, a feminine hygiene product, are linked to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and cancer

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