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By Kerry Dolan

When a friend announced she was going organic recently, I wrongly assumed it was a new diet she was adopting after seeing her summer bikini pics on social media.

It was only when I asked her which supermarket was best for organic cucumbers, she corrected me and said that she was opting for organic pads and tampons, not fruit and vegetables.

Organic pads? As in the little packages we buy discreetly every month and hide about our person? Were they even a thing? I decided to do a little research and what I found was startling. I soon learned about the growing range of organic sanitary products there are available.

I was also educated about what goes into making our pads and tampons and it made me feel a little uneasy.

Our lady parts are the most sensitive and absorbent parts of our bodies. Most items that come into continual contact with our skin will wind up in the bloodstream and be distributed throughout your body.

The average woman will use approximately 11,000 tampons during her lifetime. What we don’t realise is that in doing so, we could be putting pesticides, chlorine and all sorts of potentially toxic chemicals inside our body. Scary stuff.

What’s even scarier is that there are no long-term studies carried out on the impact these ingredients have on women’s bodies. According to website 9 out of 10 women don’t know what their tampon is made from. To make matters worse, Tampon and Pad manufacturers are not even required to list the ingredients on their packaging.

How many times have you gone to the supermarket, picked up a product and scanned the ingredients list? We are encouraged to check how much sugar and fats go into our food, so why should our sanitary choices be any different?

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Mainstream brands often find their way into our trolley because they are a trusted, familiar name. I am completely guilty of this, each month I’ll happily reach for my trusted pack of Always pads and chuck them into the basket without a second thought. What’s the point in spending a small fortune on ‘healthy’ products, like raw foods and kale face masks if we are undoing all the good work by buying toxic tampons?

The bad things to look for in sanitary protection are;

  • Rayon

  • Dioxin

  • Non-Organic cotton

  • Fragrance

  • Chlorine

  • BPA

Rayon is a highly absorbent viscose commonly associated with the increase in likelihood of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and still exists in tampons today. The chemical Dioxin is a result of chlorine processing which can be linked to hormone disruption and can affect the immune system.

Non-organic cotton doesn’t sound that bad, but the truth is that conventional cotton is farmed using pesticides and insecticides. In 2015, an independent study by the University of La Plata found that 85% of tampons tested contained Glyphosate - the active ingredient in weed killer and classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation.

Potentially carcinogenic dioxins are often linked to endometriosis, and they are also thought to disrupt hormones and cause problems with the immune and reproductive systems. Dioxins are persistent little critters that once they’re allowed into the body, remain there for the foreseeable future, building up like a small army with each new exposure.

Fragrance is vague way to describe numerous potentially damaging ingredients and BPA is a plasticizing chemical which is linked to heart disease and cancer. Chlorine is used to make our tampons and period pads super white but using chlorine can create toxic dioxins.

Not only are sanitary products harmful to our body, but to the environment too. I was shocked to learn that a conventional sanitary pad contains the equivalent of about 4 plastic bags. When you burn an organic pad versus a conventional pad, the 100% organic cotton pad burns slowly and cleanly, leaving little sooty residue. The material in the other pad creates lots of smoke and a thick residue, indicating that the pad may contain dioxins, additives and artificial fibres.

Thankfully there is something we can do. After a quick search online, I discovered that the mainstream supermarkets don’t stock organic sanitary protection, apart from Waitrose who stock the brand Natracare.

Organic pads can be purchased online from websites like Time of The Month who offer a subscription service so your supply never depletes. Amazon stocks Natracare along with Rael natural pads and liners. Holland and Barrett also stock the Natracare brand, so you can still buy them from the high street.

Time of the Month sells organic cotton tampons, pads and liners as well as handy accessories including cotton make-up bags, tote bags and cute colour pop compact mirrors. Their slogan “Be Kinder to your Vagina” is emblazoned across the bags.

I love the impact it makes but I think it will be a while before I’m brave enough to pop one over my shoulder en-route to the school run.

Their sanitary products are thankfully more discreet and their handy subscription service avoids dashing to the shops at the eleventh-hour. You can choose the date and location your products are delivered and you can change your settings at any time.

A box of 9 pads are reasonably priced, Day ones cost £3.30 and Night ones £3.50. They also offer a range of applicator and non-applicator tampons in various sizes all for under £3.50 per box of 14, stock reusable menstrual cups (a sustainable alternative to tampons and made with medical grade TPE) which come in three sizes and are priced at £20.

You could also try a menstrual cup. INTIMINA has a great range called Lily Cup, made from body-safe, ultra- hygienic, medical-grade silicone. It is hypoallergenic, phthalate-free material and made without chemicals, fibres or bleach. Unlike tampons (even organic ones) a Lily Cup can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time and is resuable.

Cheeky Wipes sells a range of reusable cloth sanitary pads. The idea, I admit makes me feel slightly uneasy but the website has reviews from satisfied customers who have never looked back. Eco friendly and healthier, they offer sensibly priced starter packs for ease of use. Simply wear them, then put into the washing machine and stick on the line to dry. If nothing else it will give the neighbours something to talk about.

A huge lack of awareness surrounds the sanitary market largely due to the fact that periods are still considered an off-limits subject unless you’re gossiping with the girls. It’s easy to disregard sanitary products as non-important as no one sees them. They’re not well marketed as they’re difficult to add to selfies, they’re not very social media friendly and they aren’t backed by any celebrity names.

Hopefully this article has made you think about those tiny fragranced packages tucked into your handbag but whether or not you decide to opt for organic or stay with mainstream brands, at least now you are armed with the facts.