As many people become more health and environmentally conscious, it makes sense to think about the impact feminine products can have on the planet. If you’re a woman, you’ve likely been using them every month for years, so it’s an important consideration. With that in mind, what’s the difference between organic vs. synthetic tampons? Are there real differences between the two?
What’s in Tampons?
Let’s first look at what’s in tampons. Tampons are made of a cotton and rayon blend. They then go through processing to whiten and bleach the materials, and then dyes and fragrances get added at the end.
Although they’re gaining more popularity now, organic tampons have actually been around since 1989.
What Makes Organic Tampons Different?
Organic tampons are made from cotton that adheres to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) organic farming standards. Synthetic tampons use regular cotton, which many consider a heavily pesticide-treated crop. Organic tampons also skip the chemical dyes and fragrances and make some changes with the applicator. Regular tampons may have a plastic or cardboard applicator. Organic tampons, in their goal to be more environmentally friendly, use an applicator made from a biodegradable, renewable or sustainable material.
That all being said, organic tampons have the same risk of toxic shock syndrome as regular tampons.
Organic vs. Synthetic Tampons
It’s understandable to be concerned about chemical exposure from the regular health and home care products you use. Should you choose organic tampons or synthetic? It depends on how you personally feel. Here are a few reasons why people may choose one type of tampon over the other:
Because a tampon fits against the vaginal wall, which is a mucus membrane, your body may be absorbing whatever is in the tampon materials. However, the exposure still seems to be relatively small.
Tampons are considered a medical device, and as such, are carefully regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One specific concern of regular tampons has been exposure to dioxin. The FDA has analyzed multiple brands of tampons and found that even in ones with the highest levels of dioxin, the exposure is still well below what’s considered a safe limit.
Organic tampons may be more environmentally friendly than regular tampons, especially compared to ones that use a plastic applicator. Many people may also feel that supporting an organic crop of cotton over nonorganic is also better for the environment. If you’re especially concerned about the landfill impact of tampons, you may find it worthwhile to invest in organic.
For some women, the dyes and fragrances used in some regular tampon brands can cause irritation or an allergic reaction. With limited chemicals used in the production and no dyes or fragrances added, organic tampons can offer relief.
Organic tampons can cost a few more dollars per box, with fewer tampons in each package. For some people, the added cost may not outweigh the benefits. For others, it’s worth it.
There’s no expert consensus on whether organic tampons are better for your health. It’s more of a personal choice based on how you rank the factors. For more information on sustainable gynecological care, find a doctor in Women’s Health Services at the Lahey Medical Center in Peabody, Mass.