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STUDY: Tampons Contain Toxic Metals, Including Arsenic And Lead

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According to a new study published in Environment International, “tampon use is a potential source of metal exposure.”

“We evaluated the concentrations of 16 metal(loid)s in 30 tampons from 14 tampon brands and 18 product lines and compared the concentrations by tampon characteristics,” the researchers wrote.

The study found tampons contain metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury.

The list of metals included:

  • Arsenic
  • Barium
  • Calcium
  • Cadmium
  • Cobalt
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Lead
  • Selenium
  • Strontium
  • Vanadium
  • Zinc

“Between 52–86% of people who menstruate in the United States use tampons—cotton and/or rayon/viscose ‘plugs’—to absorb menstrual blood in the vagina. Tampons may contain metals from agricultural or manufacturing processes, which could be absorbed by the vagina’s highly absorptive tissue, resulting in systemic exposure. To our knowledge, no previous studies have measured metals in tampons,” the researchers wrote.

“We detected all 16 metals in at least one sampled tampon, including some toxic metals like lead that has no ‘safe’ exposure level. Future research is needed to replicate our findings and determine whether metals can leach out of tampons and cross the vaginal epithelium into systemic circulation,” they added.

“Although toxic metals are ubiquitous and we are exposed to low levels at any given time, our study clearly shows that metals are also present in menstrual products and that women might be at higher risk for exposure using these products,” study co-author Kathrin Schilling said, according to Just the News.

“A new study led by a @UCBerkeleySPH researcher found that tampons from several brands can contain toxic metals like lead, arsenic and cadmium. Future research will test how much of these metals can leach out of the tampons and be absorbed by the body,” UC Berkeley wrote.

Per Just the News:

The study analyzed organic and non-organic tampons, used to absorb menstrual blood in the vagina, from the United State and United Kingdom.

The researchers also said that there is no requirement to test tampons for chemical contaminants and that the Food and Drug Administration recommends only that tampons not contain two dioxin compounds or pesticide residues.

“Despite this large potential for public health concern, very little research has been done to measure chemicals in tampons,” said UC Berkeley researcher and lead author Jenni A. Shearston.

The FDA responded Tuesday to the study, saying it is under agency review.

“All studies have limitations,” said agency spokeswoman Amanda Hils. “While the chemical method used indicates these metals are present in the tampons tested in the laboratory, the study does not assess whether any metals are released from tampons when used in the body.

The researchers wrote in their conclusion:

To our knowledge, our study is the first to assess concentrations of metals in tampons, despite the potential for substantial vaginal absorption of metals and the widespread and frequent use of tampons among menstruators. We found measurable concentrations of all 16 metals assessed, including the toxic metals Pb (GM = 120 ng/g), Cd (GM = 6.74 ng/g), and As (GM = 2.56 ng/g). We also found elevated concentrations of Ca (GM = 39,000 ng/g) and Zn (GM = 52,000 ng/g) in tampons. Future research is necessary to replicate our findings and determine whether metals can leach out of tampons and cross the vaginal epithelium into systemic circulation. Our findings point towards the need for regulations requiring the testing of metals in tampons by manufacturers. This is especially important considering that we found measurable quantities of several toxic metals, including Pb, which has no known “safe” exposure level.

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