April 11, 2010 § 2 Comments
I suggest reading the article “The Environmental Impact of Everyday Things” by Rachel from thechicecologist.com. Before you check it out, consider this excerpt:
“While acknowledging that public discussion of menstruation is a bit on the taboo side socially, environmentally it does have an impact. As such it needs to be discussed openly. For something that happens to half of the human population, the whole process and associated products are treated with a bizarre amount of shame and secrecy. Fact is, it’s a big issue. It’s expensive economically, can have serious health effects and produces a lot of waste. When it comes to environmental issues, pretending like it doesn’t happen or doesn’t have an environmental effect is a problem in and of itself.”
That’s the point of this post: Tampons. Hey, don’t go. This applies even if you’re a man, a pre or post-menstrual woman, or other. This goes out to anyone who cares about the environment, labor, and health. This goes out to you.
Here is an overview of The Tampon Issue for the “too long, didn’t read” (TL;DR) crowd:
To make tampons absorbent manufacturers use Rayon, a wood-based (trees!) fabric that requires many chemicals to be extracted, a process that is also inefficient and wasteful. There’s also dispute over whether or not Dioxins are a real concern when it comes to tampon use. Dioxins can be found in almost anything, so that they’re present in tampons isn’t a reason to sound alarms. However, they are dangerous and do exist as a byproduct of the bleaching process. Avoid subjecting your body to bleached cotton.
Not only does it take a lot of people-nature-harming crap to extract Rayon, but most of the time that process occurs in developing third world countries (namely Indonesia) – so the labor is exploitive too. Creating tampons exposes workers to harmful chemicals and then pays them squat. Don’t contribute to the production. Synthetic fibers aren’t great for you, your environment, or your human community.
It’s not just the tampons, or the pads, it’s their boxes, plastic wrappers, cardboard/plastic applicators, and the energy that it requires to produce each. 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads, PLUS their packaging, ended up in landfills or sewer systems in 1998. According to keeper.com, the “average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of tampons, pads and applicators in her lifetime.” Don’t contribute to the waste without thinking about it first.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
You’ve probably heard that tampon use carries the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. Most women will not get TSS from using tampons, but it’d be naïve to toss the threat from your decision-making toolbox. Higher absorbency tampons potentially increase the risk of TSS, so if you must use them, always go for the lowest absorbency possible.
Choosing a Brand
An emagazine.com article titled “The Hidden Price of Feminine Hygiene Products” offers the following overview of popular brands:
As the FDA does not require companies to print ingredients or bleaching processes on the packaging of tampons or pads, here’s the information you won’t find on the box: According to company spokespeople, Johnson & Johnson (manufacturer of OB, Carefree and Stayfree) and Kimberly Clark (Kotex) use cotton/rayon blends in their products, Playtex uses only rayon and Proctor and Gamble (Tampax and Always) uses both cotton-rayon blends and rayon alone. All use elemental chlorine-free bleaching. Supporting these manufacturers is a choice.
Abandon the Dark Side
And come to the green, labor-friendly, body-safe side. Use and advocate reusable menstruation products such as The Diva Cup, The Moon Cup, or The Keeper. These cups take only a little practice, last a decade, and will make your wallet, body, earth, and community happier in the long run. They require less frequent changing and you don’t need to carry back-ups or worry about running to the store. If you’re not comfortable using anything that works internally, consider washable cotton pads.
I’m all for the diva cup. I switched after doing some research on tampons and a successful trial period. Now, I won’t deny that the diva cup took some getting used to – but it was worth the adjustment. You can purchase a diva cup privately through amazon.com for around $22. The product comes in two sizes: model 1 (pre child-birth) and model 2 (post child-birth). Purchase accordingly. If you don’t want to use the online purchasing option you should be able to find diva cups or similar products in the feminine hygiene aisle alongside tampons and pads, although you may need to try a Whole Foods or another health-focused store.
I highly recommend the diva cup. Not only do I not have to worry about buying tampons, or packing them, or fitting them into my purse, but I’m using a product that I know is better for my body and the earth. You’ll also probably be surprised how little blood you’ll actually encounter using the product. If any reader would like more information please feel free to contact me privately at Schia013@umn.edu.
Take it or leave it, but now whatever choice you make is an educated one. Cheers to you and that choice.