How One Brand Is Helping Women's Bodies & the Environment at the Same Time
I turned 32 in May. As a woman, there’s many things I’ve just come to accept as normal. Hair grows in places we wish it would rather not. We’re always in search of just-the-right-shade, not-too-sticky lipgloss. And once a month, Aunt Flo comes to town (or insert your menstrual euphemism here) and you find yourself in the bathroom digging for your handy tampons.
Times have changed since I got my first period. There are now apps to predict everything — your period, your ovulation cycle — and medication to help ease our pain. There’s shots and pills and little plastic (or metal!) doodad’s that your doctor can insert to help make our cycle regular or barely there at all. So many things have changed, but one thing has stayed constant: tampons.
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a woman who uses monthly tampons is likely to use more than 11,000 in her lifetime. Not only is that a lot of tampons, but it’s a product that has remained largely unchanged since its invention.
What is in a tampon anyway?
It might surprise you that tampons are actually considered medical devices by the FDA. However, products classified as medical devices do not have to provide ingredients on packaging, leading many women to be unaware of what is in their hygiene products. Women have become increasingly vocal, calling for companies to disclose all chemicals and materials in feminine care products.
After a spike in cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from manufacturers using synthetic fibers in tampons, most regular tampons are now made from cotton and only one synthetic fiber, viscose rayon. However, synthetic fibers are highly absorbent and can concentrate menstrual proteins, leading to a higher risk of TSS. Other studies, however, have not shown an increased rate in TSS from traditional tampon options.
Two possible ingredients worry women: added chemicals, such as fragrances and additives, and pesticide residue. Product testing has shown that undisclosed fragrances and phthalates may cause allergic reactions and have been linked to hormone disruption.
Pesticides from non-organic cotton are another concern for women. This study, originally published by Naturally Savvy in 2013, shows the presence of four pesticides in a well-known feminine hygiene brand. While the levels reported were low, the FDA’s recommendation is that tampons be “free of pesticide residue.” Since cotton is not considered a food crop, pesticides are heavily used and it is unclear how much residue makes it into the final product. While there is currently very little data to show harmful amounts of pesticides in non-organic feminine products, women are calling for increased scrutiny.
Why choose Organic?
According to "Flow, the Cultural History of Menstruation” the average woman creates 300 pounds of trash in her reproductive lifetime from pads and tampons. In fact, this equates to 0.5% of her overall lifetime trash.
This colossal waste burden however, isn’t the only ecological impact of disposable feminine hygiene products.
“…tampons conducted by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, found that the largest impact on global warming was caused by the processing of LDPE (low-density polyethylene, a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene) used in tampon applicators as well as in the plastic back-strip of a sanitary napkin requiring high amounts of fossil fuel generated energy. A year’s worth of a typical feminine hygiene product leaves a carbon footprint of 5.3 kg CO2 equivalents.”
Organic cotton also helps to alleviate the fear of unreported chemicals and additives. Organic cotton is grown without the risk of direct exposure to residues, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Why Oi is different
Organic Initiative (Oi) prides itself on being a “revolution in a box.” This New Zealand-based, woman-led company focuses on making a difference, not just with female’s bodies, but with the environment as well. Oi’s products are made with organic cotton, which have been grown according to strict standards and verified by independent certification bodies, such as GOTS (Global organic textile standard) BioGro and the FDA. All Oi products never contain chemicals, preservatives, additives, and are GMO-free.
Did you know? In 2009, The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup project collected 20,000 tampon applicators out of the ocean! Oi’s Biocompact applicator is made from plant starches, meaning that it is compostable over time.
For those looking for a zero-waste option, Oi also makes a safe, non-irritating menstrual cup.
With so many new advancements in women’s health and wellness, it’s important to choose an option that you can feel good about. We’ve come too far to stop now. So say no to chemicals and unknown ingredients. And say yes to natural and organic alternatives.
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