General News / July 11, 2024

Arsenic, Lead, And 14 Other Toxic Metals Found in Tampons

Image: Rupi Kaur
General News / July 11, 2024

Arsenic, Lead, And 14 Other Toxic Metals Found in Tampons

Text: Izzy Copestake

In today’s horrific news…

Tampons have been found to contain concerning levels of toxic metals, such as lead and arsenic. The study, led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first of its kind. This begs the question: why has a product used by millions around the globe, on the most intimate area of their body, not been tested for toxic metals until now?

“To our knowledge, this is the first paper to measure metals in tampons. Concerningly, we found concentrations of all metals we tested for, including toxic metals like arsenic and lead,” study lead author Dr Jenny Shearston said.

Scientists evaluated the levels of 16 toxic metals, including arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead, and selenium, in 30 tampons from 14 different brands. Toxic metals were present in all types of tampons, regardless of whether they were purchased in the US, EU, or UK, with no geographical region consistently showing lower concentrations of most metals. The study found that organic tampons had higher levels of arsenic, while non-organic tampons contained higher levels of lead.

Approximately half of people who have periods use tampons, usually for hours at a time. Exposure to toxic metals like lead and arsenic is linked to a wide range of health conditions such as infertility, dementia, diabetes, and cancer, as well as organ damage to the liver, kidneys, and brain.

Researchers suggest that some of these metals may have even been deliberately added as a whitener, pigment, or antibacterial agent. The cotton in the tampon could also be absorbing toxic metals from air, water, or nearby contaminants.

The study notes that “regulations in the US, EU, and UK protecting consumers from potential contaminants in tampons are nearly nonexistent, and none of these governments require manufacturers to test their products for harmful chemicals, including metals.” While it remains unclear if the metals detected in the latest study are contributing to any specific health effects, the scientists have emphasised that there are no “safe levels” of toxic metals. The researchers are calling for further studies to understand this issue, as well as better labelling on tampons and laws requiring manufacturers to test for toxic metals and chemicals.

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