top of page



Discussion about how menstruation affects women’s bodies, moods and performance is not encouraged by society. Critics say that this cultural taboo has, at least in part, helped the feminine disposable hygiene industry thrive. Single use tampons and pads became available in much of the developed world in the first half of the 20th century. Today tampons are used by over 100 million women [1] worldwide while pads, which are much more widespread [2], comprise a global multi-billion dollar industry [3].

Feminine hygiene products bleach with chlorine

In the past year however, scientists and health professionals have voiced growing concern over the potential risks of using these products. Increasing evidence suggests some of them contain trace levels of chemical toxins that, over time, could pose a significant health risk to those who use them. These toxins include dioxins and phthalates, both classed as endocrine disruptors which are coming under increased scrutiny [4]. 

New research is now linking the presence of dioxin and phthalates in these products back to their manufacture. Dioxin comes from the chlorinated compounds used to bleach the raw materials in these products, while phthalates are added to the plastic compounds in these materials. What’s more, the  manufacturers of these products are failing to disclose the use of these harmful chemicals.


This is concerning given that the average woman consumes around 11,000 tampons during her lifetime [5]. Tampons especially are used inside the female body, where substances are absorbed very quickly [6]. This lack of transparency – about the use of chlorine compounds and phthalates during the production of these products – further feeds the air of secrecy that surrounds menstruation.

But at the same time, why should we even bleach tampon, diapers and other hygiene products? 

Take a look at the websites of some of the biggest tampon brands – do you notice how they promote the design, comfort and absorbency of these products, but say very little about the health and environment impacts? This lack of disclosure means the public remain largely unaware of the risks. 

"From rubber belts to hymen hysteria, the history of tampons is a reflection of the uphill battle for women's rights."

Who can forget the classic advertising campaign for Tampax where a teacher seizes a tampon from a student. “Do you think it’s candy?” says the teacher. “Well, I hope you have enough for everyone”.

Tampax – a product so innocent in its packaging that men will think it is candy! 

"From rubber belts to hymen hysteria, the history of tampons is a reflection of the uphill battle for women's rights”

It’s been almost 100 years and women still don’t have the tampons they deserve. 

Read more about the 100 years history of the tampon.

bottom of page