Everything we put into our bodies and around our homes are a growing area of concern for doctors, environmentalists and ourselves.
In particular, a group of chemicals referred to as “endocrine disruptors”—because they may mess with the hormones your body’s endocrine system regulates. These chemicals have been linked to brain disorders, reproductive issues, obesity and cancer.
Unfortunately, experts say conventional tampons belong on this growing list of potentially hazardous personal care products.
Unlike something you swallow, substances you place inside your vagina may not go through the body’s typical elimination and metabolic processes. Instead, tampon chemicals are absorbed by the vaginal mucosa, and from there are able to pass almost directly into your bloodstream. Remember the students soaking their tampons with vodka and inserting it to get intoxicated? This process is what occurs with the chemicals, as well as the alcohol.
Research shows fragranced feminine care products may raise a woman’s exposure to phthalates, a class of suspected endocrine disrupters. Research has linked to developmental issues like lower IQs and higher rates of asthma.
Another group of chemicals are dioxins, which are byproducts of the bleaching process involved in the manufacture of tampons. Dioxins are also a big concern; the World Health Organization calls dioxins “highly toxic” and categorizes them as a “known human carcinogen.” <- aka Cancer causing agents.
“The amount of dioxin in tampons is low today in comparison to when manufacturers used different bleaching methods,” says Philip Tierno, a professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University. “But it’s still present, and its effect is cumulative.” Even if your dioxin exposure from each tampon is very small, Tierno explains, a lifetime of tampon use could theoretically increase your risks for disease.