Please note – in this post we are using, to the best of our ability, medical terminology to refer to the anatomy of folks assigned female at birth.
We think it’s a good thing to be informed about the products that we use on and in our bodies. In Canada, there are lots of government regulations and oversight of medical devices such as band-aids, powered toothbrushes, and the silicon medium used in plastic surgery. But do you know what isn’t subject to that regulation? Menstrual products! Vaginal tissue is endodermal (meaning, basically, it’s inside-the-body tissue), and functions properly in part by being a porous membrane – all of which means that it’s super sensitive both physically and chemically. So the substances that menstrual products are made from and with can really affect your body and well-being.
Protecting Your Health
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is maybe the most well-known illness caused by menstrual products, and is the result of an overgrowth of the naturally occurring Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. All of the causes of TSS aren’t fully understood, but some studies have indicated that the risk of TSS is increased with the use of tampons containing Rayon or processed with Dioxin.
Rayon is a synthetic fibre that is derived from cellulose, and many conventional brands of tampons are made of a cotton-rayon blend, despite the fact that it is actually a fairly abrasive substance. The use of conventional tampons can result in tiny cuts in the vaginal walls and the cervix – and these tampons can actually leave rayon fibres behind, so the problems don’t necessarily stop when the tampon is extracted. Rayon fibres have been shown to encourage the breeding of yeast and bacteria, including S. aureus, as well as causing ulcerations and peeling of the mucus membranes.
Dioxin is a toxic, carcinogenic compound that is a byproduct of both rayon production and of the conventional process for bleaching cotton. While most conventional tampon manufacturers tout their products as not containing detectable levels of dioxin, the effects of dioxin are cumulative – meaning that negative side effects (including cancer and endometriosis) can appear after 30 or 40 years of exposure to nominally negligible quantities of the stuff!
Protecting the Environment
On average, a person uses about sixteen thousand tampons or pads during their lifetime – that’s about three hundred pounds of product! It takes 6 months for a tampon to biodegrade, whereas the plastic pads and applicators last nearly forever. As well, unless they explicitly state otherwise, tampons are made from GMO cotton which is one of the most heavily sprayed industrial crops. In California, it’s illegal to feed any cotton leaves or stems to livestock because of how intensely sprayed they are.
Luckily, there are options that are better for your health and environment! If you want to use tampons or pads, you can get ones like those at The Sweet Potato that are only made from 100% organic, unbleached cotton. We sell tampons that are either applicator-free or with biodegradable, non-cardboard applicators, so you can get comfort, convenience, and ease without compromising your values or potentially your health.
As well, there are other great alternatives that are growing in popularity. The Diva Cup is a reusable cup, made of natural gum rubber or silicone, that is inserted into the vagina. It’s said by many users to be convenient, comfortable, and has never been shown to increase the risk of TSS – as well as producing no waste!
You can also employ reusable pads or liners – like the Luna Pad, that is made from organic cotton and comes in a variety of fun colours and a variety of styles/sizes so you can find the one that suits your lifestyle, shape, and flow.
Whatever works best (and we encourage you to find something that does really work for you), there are lots of great ways to explore menstrual alternatives that are better for you and the planet you live on!