I’ve seen a lot more advertising for organic cotton tampons. Is there something wrong with current brands? Is 100% cotton better?
It’s incredibly important to know what you are putting in your body, especially your vagina. Vaginas are highly sensitive, and knowing how to take care of them, clean them, and protect them from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) are necessary skills. In 2020, 34.1 million women in the US used tampons, and most did so without concern. The common blend of cotton and rayon in most brands of tampons is fine for most women and does not seem to cause any vaginal problems .
A common fear is that chemicals inside the tampons are what cause TSS, but that has been proven wrong by research not only done on TSS but also on chemicals found within tampons . Harmful chemicals that used to be found in tampons from the production process are no longer a concern. Companies changed their manufacturing processes in the 1990s, eliminating the use of chlorine in the rayon bleaching process.
A bacterium, not chemicals, causes TSS. After a large outbreak of Toxic Shock Syndrome in the 1970s, women became concerned with the association between TSS and tampons. Some switched brands, some switched to all-cotton tampons, and others began to use menstrual cups. However, studies show that all of these products have been linked to allowing the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, one of the species of bacteria that causes TSS . This staph bacterium releases fatal poisons into the bloodstream, causing rashes, high fever, and hypotensive shock .
Gynecologists interviewed about the differences between organic, reusable, and regular period products agree that the specific product usually doesn’t matter, but how it’s used does. Be sure to change your tampons and pads every four to eight hours, remove and sanitize your menstrual cup, use the proper absorbance level tampon for your flow, and contact your doctor if anything feels wrong or you have the symptoms of TSS .
You, of course, can choose to use organic cotton menstrual products. Tampons made with 100% organic cotton are not better at absorbing your flow or better at preventing TSS than other tampons . Although organic cotton tampons and menstrual cups are more expensive than non-organic brands, they are better for the environment, which could be what sways you to choose them. All-natural cotton biodegrades faster and more easily than the non-organic blend of cotton and rayon.
 Mayo Clinic (2022, March 23). Toxic Shock Syndrome. Retrieved from Toxic shock syndrome - Symptoms & causes - Mayo Clinic
 Hochwalt, A. E., Abbinante-Nissen, J. M., Bohman, L. C., Hattersley, A. M., Hu, P., Streicher-Scott, J. L., Teufel, A. G., & Woeller, K. E. (2023). The safety assessment of tampons: Illustration of a comprehensive approach for four different products. Frontiers in Reproductive Health, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/frph.2023.1167868
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