If you're like most women, you'll use as many as 11,000 tampons during your lifetime. Add to that a couple of thousand pads and panty liners, and the ecological impact of your monthly cycle really starts to add up. Particularly egregious are the plastic applicators that come with some tampons. They can escape from any landfill- or wastebasket, for that matter- and plop down in a lake, river, playground, or just about anywhere else you'd rather not see them. The darn things are so indestructible even a car can run over them and not destroy them.
Conventional products may contain a mixture of rayon and cotton. Rayon has been implicated in toxic shock syndrome, particularly for superabsorbent tampons. Cotton is highly pesticide-intensive; 25 percent of pesticides used globally are devoted to growing cotton. To look as white as possible, conventional pads and tampons are usually bleached with chlorine, a process that can create dioxin, a known carcinogen.
Tampons, pads, and panty liners made from organic cotton are becoming increasingly available online and in the marketplace. If you're going to use conventional products, choose those sold in the simplest packaging.
O.b. tampons come in a small box with no applicator. They're compact and easy to use, and take up very little room in your purse.
Original-style Tampax are wrapped in paper and have a cardboard applicator that breaks down relatively quickly if they happen to get loose in the environment. They're preferable to the Pearl brand, which has an almost indestructible plastic applicator and is wrapped in coated paper.
The DivaCup is worn internally like a birth control diaphragm. It may require emptying two to four times a day depending on your flow. This reusable option generates no trash, but is not quite as convenient as a tampon. Some women swear by it; others think it's, well, pretty messy. Take a look and decide for yourself.
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