The problem with conventional period products

The conventional cotton in organic period products is among the most heavily sprayed crops with pesticides. Should we use them regularly?

Organic tampons and pads have come to light in the last few years and often, people wonder what the big difference is? For starters, organic feminine period products come with a higher price tag. So, is it really necessary to trade in your conventional products for 100% organic ones?

Regular tampons are made with rayon (a substance derived from wood pulp) and cotton, and have a cluster of chemicals to use for fragrances if they’re scented. 100% organic cotton tampons and pads are made with just that too. They are attractive to consumers who look for their products to be free of dyes, chemicals, fragrances and pesticide-treated cotton.

The cotton crop is one of the most sprayed crops right behind soybeans and corn. Commercial GMO cotton products first were introduced in 1996. By 2015, approximately 78% of the world’s cotton acreage was planted with genetically modified seeds. Cotton contains toxic herbicides and pesticides, with glyphosate being one of them. Glyphosate is the highest global production of all herbicides according to the World Health Organization. This ingredient has been circulating in the news for being the main active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, which is known to cause cancer.

Read about how Roundup is involved in paper cups for coffee.

The FDA regulates all tampons, including organic ones, as Class II Medical Devices. What’s scary is that manufacturers aren’t required to include detailed ingredients on their packaging or website, and the FDA also does not require companies to test for all harmful ingredients. It really makes you wonder what they’re hiding and why they can’t be truthful about the ingredients? Luckily, a new bill introduced by Assembly member Linda B Rosenthal requires disclosure of all ingredients in menstrual products, which includes tampons, pads and cups.

70% of menstruating women use tampons and 20% to 50% of women, a majority being of low-income, use douches, sprays, wipes, and washes, which include more irritating and harmful ingredients. The mucous membrane in the vagina rapidly absorbs chemicals without metabolising them, which means the toxins enter the bloodstream.

There are also studies of enhanced absorption of estradiol, found in many feminine care products. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are man-made, alter the functions of the endocrine system and are known to cause health defects. Studies show that some of the endocrine disrupters induce physiological disorders in the brain and reproductive organs by interfering with the hormone actions.

cotton pesticidesNow that we know that conventional tampons and pads include known carcinogens such as dioxins and pesticides, let’s break down some of these ingredients:


Bleach is what is used on tampon fibres, and the contaminants left over from that bleaching process are dioxins and furans. Bleach alters the natural pH in your vagina, which contributes to yeast infections.


Dioxins are environmental pollutants. The World Health Organization states: “Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.”


Fragrance in the menstrual products helps disguise hundreds of chemicals. ‘Fragrance’ is a cover-up term for phthalates, which are basically a family of chemicals causing hormone imbalances including thyroid issues. Phthalates are xenoestrogens that mimics estrogen and contribute to estrogen dominance, which can lead to endometriosis.


Glyphosate, a patented anti-biotic and known herbicide to kill weeds, has been classified as a human carcinogen by the world’s leading cancer authority. It’s embedded in our food system, our water, crops and soil.

With more and more women learning of what is in their feminine care, healthier alternatives when looking for menstrual products have been on the rise with more brands and options for us in stores. Organic period products like tampons and pads, as well as menstrual cups, which are made from silicone and are sustainable, are easily more available. At the end of the day, pesticides and harmful chemicals don’t belong in our menstrual care products. Period.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to vegan and sustainable period products.

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