28 10 / 2011
They lurk the aisles of your local supermarket. You will use more than 10,000 (250 lbs worth) of them in your lifetime. Companies won’t reveal where the materials for production come from or even how they are made. Information on tampons is hard to come by and there has been little research about the effects of chemical bleaching of the cotton.
We are here to reveal the hidden facts and truths about tampons. Not only are they unhealthy for women, but also extremely wasteful to the environment. We hope this blog will become a collection of eye-opening information!
Chanelle & Phoebe
28 10 / 2011
Tampons as waste products…. After all, you only use each tampon once.
(listed on box of Playtex Sport Unscented Regular Tampons but the FDA does not require the listing of bleaching practices)
Playtex Sport Unscented Regular Tampons received a 2.6 out of 10.0 rating in the environmental category on GoodGuide.The company that makes Playtex Tampons also has one of the “lowest scores in recycled materials”.
WHERE DO THEY END UP?
The paper, the applicator, the tampon itself.
It takes six months for a tampon to biodegrade. Pads virtually never biodegrade.
According to alternet.org , “In 1999, about 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads, and 700,000 pantiliners were flushed away daily” and “the Ocean Conservancy collected and cataloged debris along U.S. coastlines between 2001 and 2006, finding that tampon applicators made up 2.2 percent of the total debris field, more than syringes, condoms and plastic six-pack rings combined”. Its a great article, check it out!
28 10 / 2011
Beneath all the layers of packaging and applicators, a tampon is essentially a plug to absorb your menstrual flow (“tampon” means “plug” in French), and throughout history, that plug has been made from whatever natural materials resourceful women have been able to get their hands on.
In ancient Egypt, it was papyrus. In Greece, lint wrapped around lightweight wood. Romans used wool, Indonesians used vegetable fibers, Africans used rolls of grass, and Japanese women used paper.
These materials were natural and (mostly) safe, which is a big deal, because tampons are inserted into the most absorbent tissue in a woman’s body, and any chemicals present in the tampon will go straight into her blood stream.
Today, the tampons we use are generally made out of some combination of rayon, a manufactured cellulose fiber, and cotton.
"Mmm, cotton!" you think. "Reminds me of my granpappy’s house in ole’ Mississippi!"
The cotton we grow today takes up just 2.4% of the world’s arable land, and yet it accounts for 24% of the world’s insecticide market, making it the most pesticide-heavy crop on the whole planet.
In California, five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton are cancer-causing chemicals (cyanazine, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin), and in 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields in Alabama killed 240,000 fish. An estimated 67 million birds are killed each year by stray pesticides. (Check out Organic Consumers Association for more information.)
The scariest fact of all is that for every pound of cotton grown, a third of a pound of pesticides are used. That’s a really high proportion of nasty chemicals going inside your vagina.
26 10 / 2011
For some reason, it was decided that tampons needed to display sophistication and be colored white. This is unnatural, as cotton is not a naturally white plant. Chlorine Dioxin is used in the bleaching process leaving traces of chemicals and dioxin in the environment and on tampons themselves. The FDA admits that tampons may, “theoretically generate dioxins at extremely low levels” but that it is no cause for alarm. However, the EPA says that there is NO safe level for dioxin exposure to exist. The major ingredient in Playtex tampons is Rayon which is made from bleached pulp. The bleaching process is done in mills that contribute to water pollution. According to the National Wildlife Federation, within the Toxic 500 industrial producers, rayon mills are ranked 32, 71 and 278 (click me for more facts like this!). The EPA has also found that dioxins can cause cancer in animals, damage immune system, and reduce fertility over long periods of exposure (look here!).
Ok, ladies, let’s do the math. Using tampons about 4 times a day on your period for an average of 5 days every month for 40 years does add up to a lot of exposure! Small amounts over time can accumulate into dangerous amounts.
Even if there is only a small secretion of dioxins in our tampons, is it worth the possible health risks?
The FDA has information about the bleaching process but it is not publicly available. We have a right to know these things. Tampons are very intimate to your bodies and there is no reason why we should not know what is in the products that we use so consistently.
Oxygen bleaching and other types of natural cotton are being pursued by many women informed about this sickening bleaching process, there ARE other options that claim to be chlorine-free and thus dioxin-free but traces of dioxin can still be found.
We will keep you posted!
25 10 / 2011
There’s No Application for Applicators
Applicators make GentleGlide tampons “gentile” and they take away the hassle of insertion but they are unnecessary and potentially the WORST part of the tampon for the environment. They are used for a brief moment and then immediate disposed… what a waste.
Because applicators are made out of plastic, they take virtually forever to biodegrade (25 years in the ocean when flushed down the toilet and sent into the sewage system!). Before they can break down into simple enough compounds to be reused by the environment, they are often ingested by animals.
I know many women have the fear of inserting the tampon on their own, but we have been coddled and babied into reliance on applicators.
HAVE NO FEAR! SKIP THE APPLICATOR!!
This is one small way to reduce your impact on feminine product waste (and also not have to open up a dirty tin can to dispose of the applicator and risk contamination of fluids of other women)!
Here is an article describing the severity of this cause. A beach was flooded with tampon applicators! How gross….
Whatever you do, please do not flush tampon applicators down the toilet :)
24 10 / 2011
Pads? More like BADS.
They say that a diamond will last forever, and so will a sanitary pad.
True, the latter makes for a far less romantic gift, but if you check on that pad you threw out 6 years ago over in yonder garbage heap, chances are, it’s doing just fine. Pads are made of polyethelene, a plastic compound that’s almost ubiquitous in consumer products due to its being basically indestructible. Polyethelene, like most plastics, are made in factories using oil or coal, and they won’t biodegrade for several centuries.
In 1998, 13.5 billion sanitary pads, plus their packaging, ended up in landfills or sewer systems (in addition to 6.5 billion tampons, and the over 170,000 tampon applicators that were collected that year along U.S. coastal areas by the Center for Marine Conservation.)
There are a lot of advantages to using pads, and some women find them more comfortable than tampons or menstrual cups, but it’s good to know that there are some alternatives out there to whatever is available at the drugstore.
We’re personally huge fans of the DivaCup, a silicon menstrual cup that we’ve found to be comfortable, easy to use, and totally leak-proof. It’s also USDA approved, and best of all, you only have to buy it once for $40. Check out Divacup.com for more info!
Natracare is a cool company that uses biodegradable plastics made from plant cellulose rather than petroleum, and Seventhgeneration.com sells a whole line of sanitary pads that have been made without using chlorine-based dyes.
So if you feel most comfortable using pads, no need to feel guilty— just do some fun online shopping!
23 10 / 2011
Our Quest To Get Educated….
It was difficult. Very difficult. Everywhere we went, we were referred to another page, another phone line or just completely shut down.
Here is what we DID find:
Playex tampons are made in a factory in Dover, Colorado along with Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic Sunscreens, Wet Ones, Schick Razors and… wait for it…. batteries (??)
Yes, Playex is owned by the Energizer Bunny company! It was acquired by Energizer Holdings in 2007 for $1.9 billon. The tampon industry is a major ca$$$h business. This is probably one of the major reasons why they are one-time use products. This forces us, healthy women, who get our period regularly to go out and buy their product monthly.
The Energizer Battery Company Annual Report from 2010 states:
"Our acquisition of Playtex in October 2007 brought scale and leading brands – including Playtex,® Hawaiian Tropic,® Banana Boat,® Diaper Genie®
and Wet Ones® – in the Skin Care, Feminine Care, and Infant Care catego- ries. Through innovation and acquisitions, our personal care business has grown from $868 million in sales in fiscal 2004 to over $2 billion in fiscal 2010.”
Can you say CHA CHINNNGGGG $$$$?
It was also no use to get accurate, useful information from the Playtex wikipedia page because the top of the page reads:
So, we decided to pick up the phone one morning… and this is what we were working with when we actually were able to speak with real people instead of automated machines and elevator hold music:
+ a woman from Playtex told us to “do a google search”
(which by the way, we tried before calling her and did not give any information at all)
+ the Energizer Battery Company said “we do not give out information about our manufacturing process to customers”
22 10 / 2011
we had correspondence with a reasonable customer service rep. via e-mail. We were happy to finally hear from someone that we emailed a week prior, but still not quite satisfied.
This is what she had to say:
“We appreciate your interest. Tampons are made of a bleached cotton that does not contain dioxin or asbestos. The type of bleaching is Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF). This ECF process is NOT done by us or any other tampon manufacturer, it is done by the pulp industry - long before we take the rayon and make our tampons.”
“Thank you for taking the time to e-mail us with your comments about our Playtex Tampon Products.
We appreciate your input, as we are committed to manufacturing the highest quality line of Tampon products. Feedback like yours helps us to better meet the needs of our consumers.
Our Playtex tampons are manufactured in Dover, Delaware. The tampons are produced using machines so there is no human contact with the tampons themselves.
We appreciate and value your loyalty, and have taken the liberty of forwarding your remarks to our Marketing Department for review. ”
Still, Playtex takes no responsibility for the bleaching process and production. As if the fact that tampons are made by machines with no human contact will lay to rest our concerns about environmental impact and the bleaching process….
21 10 / 2011
It’s FACTORY TIME!
This entry is dedicated to explaining how tampons are produced and transported to you!
The most conclusive information we found was a study done by a group in Stokholm on OB tampons and pads.
Here is the most basic summary of the 24 page report:
Cotton growth requires pesticides, fertilizers and water (20,000 liters of water per 1 kg of cotton). The irrigation process is extremely wasteful and uses unnecessary amounts of land. Most importantly, the chemical run-off is detrimental to the environment. It is then harvested by machines, which requires a lot of energy. The cotton arrives at the factory pre-bleached.
At the factory the cotton goes through product fabrication treatment, fiber entangling and interlocking, compressive manipulation and tampon shaping to form the product. The report calculated that the total waste products of these raw materials is less than 10% of the input. This 10% is usually wasted through incineration… gross! Chemicals in the air. The main emissions are NO and SO which are both acidic compounds!
(YAY for flowcharts!!)
These factories run on our precious fossil fuels. Oil is burned through transportation because the factories have to receive the raw materials from farms all over the world and then the boxed tampons have to be shipped to stores nationwide.
The study concludes that tampons are twice more efficient than pads because pads require fossil fuels and mining while tampons only require cotton production.
here is the wonderful report if you would like to go through it yourself:
20 10 / 2011
We get it. Women are busy, and strapped for cash (or at least these women are) and it’s really hard to learn all these facts about the health risks and environmental degradation associated with pretty much all the products we consume without getting freaked out/guilty/angry.
It’s easy to go around finger-pointing at every unsustainable or unethical practice that exists in our modern world. What’s hard is making choices that allow you to feel safe and morally responsible without compromising functionality or ease. We all make hundreds of these compromises every day.
Studying the industrialization of female sanitary hygiene products has given us a fascinating perspective on the perils and privileges of today’s society, because we get to see evidence of humanity’s greatest failures (the environmental situation) and of it’s greatest triumphs (women’s liberation!)
Tampons and pads have done a lot of good in the world, especially in developing nations where a girl getting her period used to mean missing a week of school. We’ve come a long way since the days of the red tent, and technology has played a huge role in bringing about progress.
So please, if you’re interested, get educated, and then make your own mind up about how to act. If giving up CVS tampons isn’t your thing, then choose a different way to be nice to the planet. Goodness knows we all have room to improve, although we’re less to blame than our law- and stuff-makers.
Thank you for reading, and have a blissful period!