As women, feminine care is at the top of our list of concerns for decades of our lives, and tampons are the product we reach for most often. They’re compact, convenient and useful for our most earnest hygenic need, answering the demands of our periods every single month. And as one of the most intimate products we use, tampons should be made of the safest materials possible. But are they? Unfortunately, this category of products, even with its degree of importance to women, has been discovered to be woefully lacking in safety of materials and testing for the presence toxic chemicals. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you investigations on deodorants, shampoos & conditioners, now join us as we share our toxic tampon investigation.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Toxic Chemicals Found During Feminine Care Product Testing
Women’s Voices for the Earth published the Chem Fatale report detailing toxic chemicals found in feminine care products like pads, tampons, washes and wipes. Testing showed dioxins, furans and pesticide residues in tampons, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm and hormone disruption. It’s also been shown that menstrual pad use has been linked to vulvar allergic rash caused by both adhesive chemicals and synthetic fragrances used in pads.
These hazardous chemicals are even more concerning because they’re in direct contact with delicate skin that readily absorbs any substance with the ability to migrate out of the product. This means chemicals we already know that migrate and off-gas are absorbed into our bodies and bloodstreams, including any number of the 3,000+ ingredients legally hidden under the umbrella term ‘fragrance’ as protected by proprietary or intellectual property laws.
Conventional Tampons Test Positive for Toxins
In April 2018, Women’s Voices for the Earth sent 6 popular brands of super absorbency tampons sold in the United States to a lab to test for the presence of volatile organic compounds. They found that 4 out of 6 of the tampons tested contained at least one dangerous chemical suspected of being a reproductive toxicant. One brand, Playtex Sport (Scented) tested positive for 6 toxic chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm, hormone disruption and allergic reactions!
And just like the beauty industry, manufacturers aren’t often required to test for secondary contamination or label these chemicals if used as ingredients, so it’s impossible for us to know what we’re being exposed to.
Toxic Tampons–Chemicals of Concern in Feminine Care Products
There are several chemicals of concern when it comes to feminine care products, especially inside tampons. Not only does the Chem Fatale report showcase some deeply troubling issues within the feminine care industry, but additional chemicals are also problematic. The highly toxic herbicide Glyphosate was found as a contaminant residue in a whopping 85% of cotton hygiene products tested by the University of La Plata in Argentina. Glyphosate has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization. Additionally, 62% of the same samples also tested positive for AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) which is a metabolite derivative of glyphosate.
Aside from secondary contaminants, volatile organic compounds and pesticide residues found in feminine care products, the following is a list of toxic ingredients purposely added to the product. And due to lack of regulation and proprietary protection laws, many of these hazardous chemicals are not on the label:
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:
- all quaternium ingredients
- DMDM hydantoin
- diazolidinyl urea
- imidazolidinyl urea
- polyoxymethylene urea
- 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1, 3-Diol
Feminine Care Product Investigations
Mamavation sent tampons and period underwear to an EPA-certified laboratory looking for indications of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” and here are those results.
Not Our Favorite Tampons
These products are not recommended by Mamavation. Our EPA-certified laboratory found indications of PFAS in these products and we are reporting the amount they found here.
- Maxim Hygiene Organic Cotton Cardboard Applicator Tampons — 28 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- OrganYc Complete Protection Tampons (made with organic cotton) — 24 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Playtex SPORT Regular & Super Tampons — 19 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Tampax Cardboard Applicator Unscented Tampons — 23 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Up & Up (Target Brand) Regular Tampons — 23 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
These products were tested at an EPA-certified lab and no detections of organic fluorine were found at a detection level of 10 parts per million (ppm). Because these brands are not using organic cotton or GOTS-certified organic cotton, we are placing them in the better category. These tampons could have trace amounts of toxic persistent pesticides because they are not organic, while others could be using other types of additives we warned you about above. We are also pulling into this category any “organic” brand using titanium dioxide.
- Daye CBD-Filled Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- Love Begins With L. Organic Cotton Tampons – Regular — non-detect organic fluorine
- o.b. Fluid-Lock Regular Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- Playtex Simply Gentle Glide Ultra Absorbency Tampons w/ Plastic Applicator — non-detect organic fluorine
- Tampax Pearl Leakguard Protection Jumbo Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- Tampax 100% Organic Cotton Core Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- U by Kotex Click with Comfort Flex for your Perfect Fit compact Unscented tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- Veeda 100% Natural Cotton Regular Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
These are the tampons that Mamavation recommends you purchase. These products were tested at an EPA-certified lab and no detections of organic fluorine were found at a detection level of 10 parts per million (ppm). These products are also made with either organic cotton or GOTS-certified organic cotton and are less likely to contain trace amounts of toxic persistent pesticides like glyphosate. (We have also marked which brands have given us incomplete disclosures and need to change that if these products are also sold in New York.)
- Honey Pot Organically Grown Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- Live Better (CVS) Organic Cotton Tampons regular — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Lola Super Tampons Made with 100% organic cotton — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- o.b. Organic 100% Organic cotton – regular — non-detect organic fluorine
- OI Girl Organic Regular Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- My Box Shop 32 Organic Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Natracare Organic Tampons with applicator — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Seventh Generation Organic Cotton Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- TOP Organic Cotton Tampons with plant-based compact applicator — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Viv for your V Organic Cotton Tampons with Plant-based applicator — non-detect organic fluorine
Not Our Favorite Period Underwear Brands
These brands tested at over 100 ppm of fluorine. We tested several types of brands and retested different types of underwear for some brands that ended up here. The 100ppm standard is the same standard used to determine if food packaging is compostable. It’s not a perfect standard, but this is what we have. However, we make no claims as to how much fluorine is dangerous vs. safe for dermal exposure in your vaginal area. We simply do not know.
- Thinx Bayshort–619 ppm fluorine
- Thinx High Waist–940 ppm fluorine
- Thinx BTWN–132 ppm fluorine
- Knix High Rise–373 ppm fluorine
- Proof Hipster–234 ppm fluorine
Better Period Underwear Brands
Fluorine was found but under 100 ppm. That specific level is the same standard to determine whether food packaging is compostable, so we are using it here for similar purposes. However, we make no claims as to how much fluorine is dangerous vs. safe. We simply do not know.
- Knix Boyshorts–43 ppm fluorine
- Knix High Waisted Period Underwear–17 ppm fluorine (new results added)
- Joyja–18 ppm fluorine
- Red Ruby Box–27 ppm & 22 ppm fluorine
- Saalt Wear–10 ppm fluorine
- Sustain Natural–71 ppm & 17 ppm fluorine
- Victoria’s Secret–20 ppm & 12 ppm fluorine
- Thinx Speak High Waist–10 ppm fluorine
- Cora–14ppm & 13ppm organic fluorine* (new brand added)
- Panty’s— 37 ppm organic fluorine (new brand added)
- Maxim Hygiene–26 ppm organic fluorine (new brand added)
Best Period Underwear Brands
Mamavation used an EPA-certified lab to do this testing. No fluorine was detected in any of these products sent to the lab in 2020 and 2021. The Level of Qualification (LOQ) for testing was 10 parts per million, therefore if products had fluorine at lower levels, the test would not find it. We cannot guarantee these brands will continue to test the same. This was only a snapshot in time to help guide you in purchases. Most brands are using a thin layer of polyester or nylon to capture up to 5 tampons’ worth of heavy flow and keep it in your panties.
- Lilova (no fluorine detected)(*newest brand added) Use discount code “MAMAVATION15” for 15% off your order.
- Aisle (formerly known as Lunapads) (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMAVATION_10” for $10 off any order over $35 placed on periodaisle.com here.
- Bambody (no fluorine detected)
- Intimate Portal (no fluorine detected)
- Period (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMA” for a special sale of “Buy 3 panties and get 1 free”
- Modibodi (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMA10” for 10% off orders over $100 for new customers. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer, on sale, gift cards or bundle packs. Limit one per customer.
- Revol (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 15% off your first purchase.
Question- which lab do you use for testing?
Do you have any info on the saalt cup?
Have Flex Menatrual Discs been tested at all? I love using them; I think they’re better than cups but I wonder how they rank in safety?
You can actually find reusable menstrual disks now too! Because they are plastic Flex disks are likely to contain some chemicals that leach into your body. Intima, and Lumma are great brands to try!
I find this very important and I feel as though every woman should read this and know these things. I shared this and wanted to thank you Leah for making this post. There is so much about this that can really effect young to older women it’s scary.
The more I know, the more I wish I knew years ago. It’s sooo important for young girls. They are going to be housing the next generation!
I have always hated tampons. Thanks for putting all of these resources in one place. I am looking to try a different cup, the Diva is just too big for me.
Have you tried the Sckoon? That’s the one I have. I have the 2nd size up, but if you are small inside, perhaps the first size where women that haven’t had children use.
Try the Lily Cup! It has a very soft design and a completely different shape from the Diva. Diva cup didn’t work for me either. There’s always menstrual disks too.
Patricia K Lopez
Now we know why !! all those poor women & their families not knowing why they’re dying from tampons. The companies knew ALL ALONG !!!!!! shame on them for not speaking out.
They’ve always known. It’s criminal!
I have never inserted a tampon inside me in my life! Hoping my daughters will do the same! Lead by example, right?
The better tampons wouldn’t be so bad. What are you using instead?