Many Organic Tampons Are Better For the Environment, but Watch For These Things

If you're concerned about climate change and looking for environmentally friendly products to help combat the problem, you may be curious about organic tampons. Are they actually better than your go-to brand? Felice Gersh, MD, an award-winning ob-gyn, founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist's Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness, told POPSUGAR that organic tampons are a healthier option in more ways than one.

"Organic tampons are definitely better for the environment — and the individual — than standard tampons," Dr. Gersh explained. This is because they don't contain toxic ingredients like pesticides, herbicides, bleaches, and disinfectants that are frequently present in standard tampons. (Though, to be fair, some experts argue that you encounter these chemicals in larger amounts in your everyday life.) "When tampons are disposed of, these issues become very important as the chemicals contained within their fibers can ultimately be released into the environment," she told POPSUGAR. She explained that while each tampon is a small piece of waste, the accumulation from millions of people using them each month is pretty big.

Dr. Gersh also pointed out that most standard tampons contain plastic applicators for vaginal insertion. These applicators aren't biodegradable and are harmful to many types of wildlife. "Even when they don't end up in lakes or the ocean, where they can kill the living creatures, they accumulate in landfills, and we have a limited supply of space on Earth to accommodate dumped garbage," she explained. Dr. Gersh noted that not all organic tampons have biodegradable applicators, but many do — so if you're switching to organic tampons, you'll want to double-check to ensure you're buying a brand that uses environmentally friendly applicators.

However, there is one downside to organic tampons: the amount of energy required to produce organic cotton. Samantha Radford, PhD, a chemist who focuses on environmental health, told POPSUGAR that the conventionally raised cotton used in nonorganic tampons is detrimental to the environment due to the large amount of pesticides, water, and energy required to produce it. But the issue isn't black and white. "The problem with organic cotton is that it still needs a lot of energy to produce, and it requires much more difficult physical labor for workers," Dr. Radford said. As an eco-friendly alternative, she suggested ditching tampons entirely in favor of menstrual cups.

"Once you buy one, it can last for years, and it's made of silicone, so it doesn't retain dangerous chemicals that can leach into your body," she explained. Dr. Radford told POPSUGAR that she's very happy with her Diva Cup, but there are also a number of other brands available in different lengths and sizes that will work for people from young teenagers to those who have had vaginal births. If you prefer to stick with tampons, organic is better for the environment — but they're not the only green menstrual product out there, so weigh your options.