Arsenic and Lead Found in Tampons

Tampons contain toxic metals like lead and arsenic, potentially putting a large swath of the population at an increased risk of infertility and chronic conditions.

About 50–80% of people who menstruate use tampons, for several hours at a time. The skin of the vagina has a higher potential for chemical absorption than skin elsewhere on the body, increasing its vulnerability to metal exposure.

The authors of the study published in Environmental International evaluated levels of 16 metals in 30 tampons from 14 different brands.

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The metals included arsenic, barium, calcium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, strontium, vanadium, and zinc.

All types of tampons contained metals, but their concentrations varied by the purchase location (US vs. EU/UK), whether they were made from organic vs. non-organic materials, and store- vs. name-brand.

The study found that no category had consistently lower concentrations of all or most metals. For instance, non-organic tampons were higher in lead, while the concentrations of arsenic were greater in organic products.

"Although toxic metals are ubiquitous and we are exposed to low levels at any given time, our study clearly shows that metals are also present in menstrual products, and that women might be at higher risk for exposure using these products," said study co-author Kathrin Schilling, assistant professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Exposure to metals is associated with an increased risk of dementia, infertility, diabetes, and cancer. Metals can damage vital organs like the liver, kidneys, and brain, as well as cardiovascular, nervous, and endocrine systems. These metals can also have negative effects on maternal health and fetal development.

There are several ways metals could make their way into tampons. For example, cotton material could absorb the metals from the environment through a nearby contaminant. Some metals could be added intentionally during manufacturing as a whitener or antibacterial agent.

Calls for better testing of menstrual products

While further research is needed to determine whether metals detected by this study are contributing to any negative health effects, increasing evidence underlines the dangers lurking in menstrual products.

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A 2023 review found that menstrual products contain a variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Exposure to these chemicals is linked to abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, and increased risk of breast cancer.

EDCs can also impair health effects on the nervous and immune systems, as well as play a role in developing diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular problems.

Another 2023 study discovered perfluorinated substances (PFAS), also dubbed as "forever chemicals," in menstrual underwear, pads, tampon applicators, and plastic wrappers.

The authors of the new study hope that manufacturers will be required to test their products for metals, and the public could play a role in calling for more rigorous testing or product labeling.

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Comments

Mary Wiley
prefix 10 days ago
Isn't practically everything made in foreign companies now, or the USA is using products from foreign companies? If so, and I believe so, then this explains everything.