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There Might Be Toxic Metals In Your Tampons: Here’s What You Need To Know

Brace yourselves, because it seems like the tampon terror saga has struck again. These essential feminine products, our steadfast companions during that time of the month, seem to have a surprise in store for us — and it’s not pretty. Move over, fears of toxic shock syndrome: Now, there’s talk of a new side effect lurking in our trusted tampons

One essential aspect often overlooked is menstrual hygiene, particularly the importance of using tampons, so understanding what really goes into our bodies is crucial. Tampons not only provide comfort and convenience but also play a significant role in health and hygiene during menstruation. They offer protection against leaks, allow for greater mobility, and promote a sense of confidence and comfort that is crucial during busy college lives.

However, recent research has raised concerns about the potential exposure to chemicals, including metals, through tampon use. This is particularly significant because the vaginal skin can absorb chemicals more readily than other parts of the body. Confirmed on July 3, a published study by The University of California, Berkeley examined 30 tampons from 14 different brands and discovered measurable levels of 16 different metals, ranging from arsenic to lead. After comparing tampons sourced from the USA and the UK, including both organic and non-organic varieties, surprisingly, the study found that regardless of their origin or classification, neither type showed lower levels of metals. 


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The study suggests several possible reasons for this contamination. Metals could have been absorbed by the cotton from its surroundings or nearby pollutants. Alternatively, some metals might have been intentionally added for purposes like coloring, bleaching, or as antibacterial agents. Given that between 50% to 80% of individuals who menstruate rely on tampons, the presence of these metals is worrying. According to the study, these metals have the potential to be absorbed by the highly absorbent vaginal tissue, leading to systemic exposure. 

But fear not, even though this finding might come as a shock to tampon users who rely on this product, this just means that there’s a need for regulations requiring the testing of metals in tampons by manufacturers. “Although toxic metals are ubiquitous and we are exposed to low levels at any given time,” said study co-author Kathrin Schilling in a news release. “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.”

Why are arsenic and lead toxic?

While arsenic and lead are natural elements found in the earth, they can pose a serious threat to our environment, whether that’s through the air, water, or soil. While these elements serve beneficial purposes in industrial processes or as components in electronics, their inorganic forms can have significant health risks. Exposure to elevated levels of toxic arsenic and lead primarily occurs through drinking contaminated water, using such water in food preparation and irrigation, industrial activities, consuming contaminated foods, or even smoking tobacco.

Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, predominantly from drinking water and food, can result in chronic arsenic poisoning. This condition is characterized by various health effects, most notably skin lesions and an increased risk of skin cancer. However, organizations worldwide are actively engaging in efforts not only to minimize exposure to arsenic and lead before it happens but also to develop sustainable solutions that ensure the safety of our water, food, and environment.

What does this mean for the future of tampons?

Since several toxic metals were detected, obviously more research is needed to assess the presence of other chemicals in tampons and understand their potential impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. Additionally, there are other metals that they found that could impact health for the better, such as calcium, iron, and zinc. In fact, zinc was found to be the highest concentration.

In the realm of female health, ongoing initiatives are seriously making significant strides as efforts are focused on improving monitoring systems, implementing stricter regulatory standards, advocating for safer agricultural practices, and promoting cleaner industrial processes.

Lily Brown

Emerson '25

Lily Brown is the Wellness Intern for Her Campus Media. She writes for the Culture, Style, and Wellness verticals on the site, including Beauty, Decor, Digital, Entertainment, Experiences, Fashion, Mental Health, and Sex + Relationships coverage. Beyond Her Campus, Lily is a rising senior at Emerson College in Boston, MA, majoring in Journalism with a Publishing minor. She works as the Creative Director for the on-campus lifestyle publication, Your Magazine, where she establishes and curates the conceptual design and content for the entire publication ranging from style, romance, music, pop culture, personal identity, and college experiences. She has written and photographed for Your Mag along with several other on-campus magazines. Lily was recently recognized for her work on YM and awarded two EVVYs for Outstanding Print Publication. In her free time, Lily maybe spends a little too much time keeping a close eye on captivating red carpet and runway fashion, and binge-watching her favorite shows. She also enjoys expressing her thoughts through creative writing, exploring new destinations, and blasting ABBA, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, and Lady Gaga on Spotify. Additionally, she actively contributes to fostering a sense of community among college residents as a dedicated Residential Assistant.