Do you really know what you're putting in your vagina?

By Nora Mitchell

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Maybe you’re eco-friendly in your transportation habits, your dietary choices or your clothing purchases, but are you environmentally conscious about what you put into your vagina?

I’m talking about sustainably-sourced tampons; you’ll probably be relieved to hear that a sustainable tampon is not a recycled tampon. The brand L. produces feminine care products made from 100% organic cotton; no harmful chemicals, no artificial ingredients. Their beautifully designed packaging is made from environmentally-friendly plastic, or PET, which is globally recognized as non-toxic and recyclable.

Talia Frenkel, a photojournalist who worked for the U.N and the Red Cross, founded L. after witnessing how women’s lack of access to birth control and feminine hygiene products is impacting young girls in developing countries. Not having simple products like condoms and pads contributes hugely to teen pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS and impedes girls from completing their educations. In Sierra Leone, over 20% of girls miss school because they don’t have sanitary pads, and in Nepal and Afghanistan, it's 30%. So for every tampon you purchase, L. donates a sanitary napkin to a girl in need to diminish these heartbreaking and unfair statistics. L. also works with a network of over 2,800 female entrepreneurs and set out to donate 50 million health products in 2017.

L.’s tampons are cruelty-free and hypoallergenic, containing no dyes or fragrances, no bleaching agents, no plasticizing chemicals, and no rayon, which has highly absorbent fibers that can stick to your vaginal wall and stay behind (raising your risk of developing TSS-- which is rare, but can be fatal). There are also no phthalates, a class of suspected endocrine disruptors, which are known to disregulate gene expression and are linked to developmental issues.

Most importantly, they don’t contain dioxins, which are byproducts of a bleaching process involved in the manufacture of most tampons. Not to scare you, but The World Health Organization calls dioxins “highly toxic carcinogens,” and has published reports showing that even trace amounts of dioxin can be linked to abnormal tissue growth, abnormal cell growth, immune system suppression, hormonal and endocrine system disruption. The amount of dioxin in tampons is low today compared to when manufacturers used different bleaching methods, but it is still present. Its effect is cumulative, so even if your dioxin exposure from each tampon is very small, tampon use over many years could increase your risk for health problems.

I tried out L.’s regular-absorbency organic cotton tampons and won't be going back! I didn't notice a difference in how long they lasted compared to my usual Tampax and I experienced no discomfort or unusual reactions. It feels good to support a company that donates products to women in need and that supports female entrepreneurs. This is definitely a product I plan on purchasing in the future, for both humanitarian and health reasons. You can buy a subscription on their site, on Amazon, or at Target!

Illustration by Nora Mitchell