If you’ve ever looked at the label on a conventional pad or tampon box, you might find it lacking for ingredients. Maybe you’ve wondered what’s actually in there. But hey, it’s just cotton, right?
Toxic Chemicals in Pads & Tampons
It turns out that most pads and tampons aren’t actually made with cotton. Most are made of synthetic material like rayon or SAPs (Super Absorbent Polymers). These materials are often bleached with chlorine to give them that pristine white look. Yes, some pads and tampons are made with cotton—but it tends to be traditionally grown cotton as opposed to organic cotton.
All of this means that there are some chemicals of concern that commonly show up in pads and tampons:
- Dioxins and furans: linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive toxicity. These are byproducts of the bleaching process.
- Pesticide residues: linked to cancer. These have been detected in products made with traditionally grown cotton.
- Undisclosed fragrance ingredients, which may contain chemicals linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and allergies.] Many pads, and sometimes tampons, come in scented varieties.
Here’s what makes this even more serious: pads and tampons come into contact with some of the most sensitive and absorptive skin on women’s bodies.
Consider this fact: doctors are increasingly administering hormone treatments vaginally because the drug can be transferred directly into the bloodstream without being metabolized, the way it would if taken orally. When given vaginally, the levels of the drug in the body can be 10-80 times higher than when given orally.
Another reason for concern is that this is a serious route of exposure for women, who use pads and tampons for several days at a time on a monthly basis for decades. Studies show that the vast majority of women use tampons (50-86%) and pads (62-73%).
Yet it’s still not customary for companies to disclose what’s inside feminine care. Pads and tampons are regulated as ‘medical devices’, so there’s no government requirement that ingredients be disclosed. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to avoid chemicals of concern.
Two Brands Offering a Solution
For the first time ever, women no longer have to unwittingly sacrifice their health just to manage the monthly flow. Two brands have stepped up to be the first feminine care companies to certify their products under the revolutionary new MADE SAFE seal. MADE SAFE literally means that a product is made with safe ingredients not known to harm human health or ecosystems.
Pads and tampons carrying the MADE SAFE seal are made without known carcinogens, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, high-risk pesticides, toxic fragrance chemicals, and other ingredients that can harm your health. It’s the only nontoxic certification for products across store aisles, and it means that you can finally figure out what’s safe to use.
We’re not surprised that all Natracare pads and tampons passed the rigorous MADE SAFE screening process. Natracare products are chlorine-free, are not tested on animals and do not contain any materials made from crude oil. Natracare uses 75-100% renewable and sustainable materials, which also makes Natracare products over 90% biodegradable and compostable, helping to alleviate the burden on overflowing landfill sites.
The Organ(y)c Moderate Flow Pad is MADE SAFE certified. Organ(y)c pads are made with 100% organic cotton, with zero rayon or SAPs. The brand believes that a healthy period is your hormones working in harmony—uninterrupted by the chemicals that come with conventionally-grown cotton or non-cotton materials.
Tips for Choosing Healthier Feminine Care Products
- Choose unbleached, chlorine-free pads and tampons to avoid dioxins & furans
- Opt for unscented products, which will save you exposure to undisclosed fragrance ingredients that can be irritating in the short term, and linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption in the long term.
- When possible, buy from companies that list all ingredients on the label.
- Write to companies on social media and ask them to display their ingredients and be transparent with shoppers about what’s in their products.
- Urge companies to get 3rd party certified so you know a trusted source has checked into their products.
 Tourgeman D.E., Gentzchein E., Stanczyk F.Z., Paulson R.J., Serum and tissue hormone levels of vaginally and orally administered estradiol. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Volume 180, Issue 6, pp: 1480-1483. June 1999.
 Zota, A (2012) Descriptive statistics on feminine hygiene use among U.S. reproductive-aged women, NHANES 2001- 2004. Personal communication. 2012.