Thinking about making the switch to reusable menstrual products but still have questions? This section explores health, environmental, financial, ethical and performance considerations that should help inform your decision. Tens of thousand worldwide have already made the switch to Lunapads, Lunapanties or the DivaCup. Click the icons below to learn more.
Do you ever wonder what is in disposable pads and tampons?
Do you experience any physical discomfort like rashes and itching from using them?
Lunapads creator, Madeleine Shaw did. After months of experiencing recurring infections linked to disposable tampons, she decided to create something better. By choosing to use washable and reusable menstrual pads and cups you are no longer exposing yourself to the potentially harmful chemicals and synthetic materials found in most disposable pads and tampons.
IMAGE BY WOMEN'S VOICES FOR THE EARTH
Disposable pads and tampons are made primarily of bleached wood pulp or viscose rayon, made from wood cellulose. What makes these products perform so effectively is the use of high tech chemicals such as super-absorbent acrylic polymers (SAPs) surfactant-laced gels and leak-proof plastic backings.The long-term health and environmental impact of these ingredients is contentious and largely unknown, but they pose the risk of cervical cancer, endometriosis, infertility, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, immune system deficiencies, pelvic inflammatory disease, and toxic shock syndrome.
While we are not doctors or scientists, we have had the benefit of over 20 years of experience in talking to customers about their health and menstrual products, many whom tell us they have experienced an allergic reaction to disposable pads and tampons. This is most likely due to contact with the aforementioned chemicals and plastics. Manufacturers are not required to disclose or list their ingredients on their package, but studies show that ingredients commonly found in pads or tampons include: chlorine bleached rayon, dioxins, pesticides, GMO cotton, and fragrances - a catch-all term that represents an undisclosed mixture of chemicals.
When you make the switch to Lunapads, you know exactly what you are putting into contact with your body. You are in control.
SOURCES & MORE INFORMATION
- Chem Fatale: Potential Health Effects of Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products by Women’s Voices for the Earth
(2 Page Fact Sheet | 24 Page Full Report)
Cumulative Exposure and Feminine Care Products by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
- The Hidden Price of Feminine Hygiene Products by E: The Environmental Magazine
- Detox the Box a campaign by Women’s Voices for the Earth asking the makers of Tampax and Always to list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals.
- FLOW: A comparison of tampons to menstrual cups published by the College of Family Physicians of Canada
- Exposure assessment to dioxins from the use of tampons and diapers: A research article by Environmental Health Perspectives
- The Tampon Safety and Research Act of 1999, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s Bill to protect women from TSS
- Excerpt from a January 31, 2008 Media Release from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s office on the introduction of The Robin Danielson Act: The EPA has released reports identifying dioxin as a “probable cancer-causing agent.” Tampons currently sold in the United States are composed of rayon, cotton, or a combination of both. Rayon is produced from bleached wood pulp, and the chlorine bleaching of pulp produces a by-product of dioxin. While chlorine-free bleaching processes are available, most wood pulp manufacturers only use elemental-chlorine free bleaching processes which still use chlorine dioxide as a bleaching agent, and therefore still produce dioxin. The EPA reports that even 100 percent cotton tampons and completely chlorine-free tampons have trace amounts of dioxin because decades of pollution have caused an infiltration of dioxin in the air, water, and ground. Dioxin can still find its way into cotton and wood pulp products - and therefore tampons - because of this pollution.
Impact on landfillsIt is estimated that approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are being sent to North American landfills annually. On an individual level, each of the approximately 73 million menstruating people in North America will throw away 125 to 150kg of disposable menstrual products (or 16,800 disposable pads or tampons) in their lifetime. These products require hundreds of years to biodegrade, particularly if wrapped in the plastic bag commonly provided for this purpose as part of their packaging. In fact, every piece of plastic ever made, still exists to this day.
Thanks to Lunapads customers, 1 million+ disposable pads and tampons are diverted from landfills every month.
By choosing to use natural menstrual products like Lunapads, Lunapanties and The DivaCup, you are doing your part to help the environment. With proper care, our washable and reusable menstrual products will last for many years as opposed to 3 or 4 hours in the case of disposables. We estimate that 1 Lunapad replaces 120 disposable products. Just imagine not having to buy menstrual products at all for at least 5 years!
Resource consumption and environmental byproducts
In addition to the solid waste from disposables, there are significant resources consumed during the manufacturing processes. Disposable pads and tampons are made primarily of bleached kraft pulp or viscose rayon, the origin of which is wood cellulose from trees. Imagine what kind of processing is required to turn solid wood into the fluffy fibers found in disposable pads – in a nutshell, a lengthy series of powerful chemical baths. The rayon and pulp are further processed with a variety of bleaching agents to render them white (although not more absorbent), and then treated with another host of chemicals to enhance absorbency or add scent.
Dioxin is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S. While the jury is still out on the direct risk to human health posed by dioxin residue in disposable pads and tampons, its danger to the environment via effluent from factories is well known. In fairness, progress has been made in recent years to address this issue and oxygen-based bleaches are being increasingly adopted. That said, there has also been an increased adoption of the use of Super Absorbent Polymers (SAPs) in the pursuit of “ultra thin” pads, and disposable pads, which continue to be backed and wrapped in plastic.
Precisely what all these chemicals and substances are and what their gross environmental impact is largely unknown, particularly in the long term. Pad and tampon manufacturers are not required to disclose ingredients of all their products (proprietary information) and many are only listed generically (“fragrance” as an example) on the packaging.
Lunapads, on the other hand, are made with a combination of three types of fabric, cotton flannel, cotton fleece and Polyurethane Laminate, which use their own share of resources to produce. That said, 1 menstruating person only has to buy Lunapads once every 5-10 years, as opposed to every single month for approximately 40 years. That means that the amount of resources used to make Lunapads is far, far lower than that of their disposable counterparts.
Further resources (water, detergent and energy) are required in order to capitalize on Lunapads reusable benefit. That said, Lunapads are very small and can be washed in your regular load of laundry, making the amount of water and soap required for their maintenance to be fairly minimal.
Disposables vs. Cloth
The cloth vs disposable diaper “debate” is clearly relevant to the issue at hand, as disposable menstrual pads and pantyliners are made from almost identical materials to disposable diapers - and cloth pads, like cloth diapers, require laundering.
In 1991, the Landbank Consultancy report reviewed the environmental impact of disposable diapers and concluded that compared to cloth diapers, throwaway diapers used 20 times more raw materials, three times more energy and twice as much water; overall they generated 60 times more waste. Disposable menstrual pads are made from substantially equivalent materials and ingredients as disposable diapers.
Peggy O’Mara is a highly respected author, researcher, public speaker and founder of Mothering Magazine. This is an excerpt from her editorial titled ‘A Tale of Two Diapers’ that offers a well-researched counterpoint to the argument that the energy and resources required to care for cloth diapers “cancel out” their environmental benefit.
"In 1991, Carl Lehrburger undertook a life-cycle analysis of diapers, his second study for NADS (the National Association of Diaper Services). It was the most detailed study to date of the environmental impact of single-use diapers and the first one not funded by the disposables industry. Lehrburger found that, compared to reusable diapers, throwaways generate seven times more solid waste when discarded and three times more waste in the manufacturing process. In addition, effluents from the plastic, pulp, and paper industries are far more hazardous than those from the cotton-growing and -manufacturing processes. Single-use diapers consume less water than reusables laundered at home, but more than those sent to a commercial diaper service. Washing diapers at home, however, uses 50 to 70 gallons of water about every three days—about the same as flushing a regular-flow toilet five times a day. These 1991 figures for gallons of water could probably be improved on using today's more energy-efficient washing machines.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, 3.5 billion gallons of oil were used to produce the 18 million throwaway diapers that Lehrburger studied in 1991. Approximately 7 billion gallons of oil each year are required to feed our disposable-diaper habit today, almost four times as much oil as is estimated to be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 1991, the Landbank Consultancy, an independent environmental agency in the United Kingdom, reviewed and evaluated the available research on the environmental impact of throwaway diapers. Their conclusion: compared to cloth diapers, throwaway diapers use 20 times more raw materials, three times more energy, and twice as much water; they generate 60 times more waste.” (Emphases ours.)
This research can be applied to cloth pads versus disposable menstrual pads, but on a different scale. Cloth pads are much smaller than diapers and since they don’t contain fecal matter, they can be easily added to a regular load of existing laundry. A separate load is rarely needed and so the additional amount of water consumed to launder them is relatively insignificant. It is also worth noting that since these studies were done, most washing machines have become considerably more efficient in terms of their consumption of energy and water.
While it’s hard to create a perfectly balanced apples-to-apples comparison, we feel there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that on balance, Lunapads, and Lunapanties - particularly ones made with organic cotton are a significantly more environmentally responsible choice than disposables.
Plastic Pollution – The Bigger Picture
It’s important to contextualize the issue of disposable menstrual products within the broader spectrum of the effect that plastic waste has on the environment. Tampon applicators in particular are a sad sight on beaches, and are surely consumed by fish and birds with fatal results. While we have not been able to find current data on what exact percentage of total ocean plastic debris disposable pads, tampons and applicators occupy, our position is: the less, the better. As a historical reference point, according to the Center for Marine Conservation, over 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along US coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.
Excerpt from The Plastic Sea by Paul Watson
“A June 2006 United Nations environmental program report estimated that there are an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic debris floating on or near the surface of every square mile of ocean. We live in a plastic convenience culture; virtually every human being on this planet uses plastic materials directly and indirectly every single day. Our babies begin life on Earth by using some 210 million pounds of plastic diaper liners each year; we give them plastic milk bottles and plastic toys, and buy their food in plastic jars, paying with a plastic credit card. Even avoiding those babies by using contraceptives results in mass disposal of billions of latex condoms, diaphragms, and hard plastic birth control pill containers each year. Every year we eat and drink from some 34 billion newly manufactured bottles and containers. We patronize fast food restaurants and buy products that consume another 14 billion pounds of plastic. In total, our societies produce an estimated 60 billion tons of plastic material every year. Each of us on average uses 190 pounds of plastic annually: bottled water, fast food packaging, furniture, syringes, computers and computer diskettes, packing materials, garbage bags and so much more. When you consider that this plastic does not biodegrade and remains in our ecosystems permanently, we are looking at an incredibly high volume of accumulated plastic trash that has been built up since the mid-20th century. Where does it go? There are only three places it can go: our earth, our air and our oceans.”
For more information on reducing your plastic waste, visit our friends:
Reusable menstrual products present an opportunity for real financial savings, as demonstrated by the table below. We have chosen not to include two ancillary costs: utilities and detergent used to clean washable pads and the portion of property taxes used to finance garbage pickup of used disposable products and landfill maintenance.
DISPOSABLE PADS VS. LUNAPADS SAVINGS CALCULATION
||Price||# per Pack||$ per Pad||Pads per Period||Cost per 5 Years|
|Always Flexiwing Maxi||$7.99||36||$0.22||20||$266.33|
|Stayfree Maxi with Wings||$6.79||36||$0.19||20||$226.33|
|Seventh Generation Ultra Thin Maxi||$4.29||14||$0.31||20||$367.71|
|Natracare Organic Cotton Maxi||$5.49||14||$0.39||20||$470.57|
|U by Kotex Ultra Thin Maxi||$7.99||36||$0.22||20||$266.33|
|U by Kotex Nite Pads with Wings||$4.49||14||$0.32||20||$384.86|
|LUNAPADS DELUXE KIT|
|Cost per 5 Years: $129.99|
|2 Mini Pads|
|2 Basic Mini Liners, 2 Mini Wing Liners|
|3 Maxi Pads|
|2 Maxi Liners, 2 Maxi Wing Liners|
|2 Long Pads|
|2 Basic Long Liners, 2 Long Wing Liners|
|Average Cost of Disposable Pads (5 Years)||$330.36|
|Cost of Lunapads Deluxe Kit (5 Years)||$129.99|
|Average Savings Using Lunapads||$200.37|
TAMPONS VS. DIVACUP SAVINGS CALCULATION
|Disposable Tampons & Cups||Price||# per Pack||$ per Tampon||Tampons per Period||Cost per 5 Years|
|Playtex Regular Tampons||$9.99||36||$0.28||20||$333.00|
|Tampax Pearl Tampons with Applicator||$8.99||36||$0.25||20||$299.67|
|OB Non Applicator Tampons||$4.49||18||$0.25||20||$299.33|
|Seventh Generation Tampons||$5.19||20||$0.26||20||$311.40|
|U by Kotex Tampons||$8.29||36||$0.23||20||$276.33|
|REUSABLE MENSTRUAL CUP||Unit Cost||Life (Years)||Cost Per 5 Years|
|Average Cost of Disposable Tampons or Cups (5 Years)||$332.37|
|Cost of The DivaCup (5 Years)||$87.50|
|Average Savings Using The DivaCup||$244.87|
Do business with an ethical, woman-owned B Corporation
Lunapads is an ethical, social-mission based business. As one of only 1000 certified B Corporation worldwide, we’ve had our business audited to ensure we meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Help girls in the developing world stay in school
Pads4Girls: Since 2000, Lunapads has been providing girls and women in developing nations with cloth pads and underwear so that they can attend school or work during their period, a practice known as Pads4Girls.
Learn more about Pads4Girls
We are also creating sustainable jobs for women: not just here in Canada, but in Uganda too. In 2008 Lunapads endorsed the startup of a Ugandan pad-making company based on the Lunapads design. Today, AFRIpads employs over 100 women and men, and has supplied over 250,000 schoolgirls with cloth pads so that they can stay in school during their period. Looking for a way to provide ongoing support for AFRIpads, we created One4Her: for every eligible Lunapad purchased, a girl in need will receive a Ugandan-made AFRIpad pad to support her school attendance.
One4Her: Our One4Her program aims to improve access to education for girls, while supporting local employment for women in Uganda. How? For every product you purchase for yourself here, Lunapads will provide a girl in need with a Uganda-made AFRIpad to support her education. One for you. One for her.
Learn more about One4Her
How well do Lunapads and other reusable options perform in comparison to disposables? Disposable products are superior in performance thanks to all the chemicals and plastics discussed in the Health and Environment sections.
HIGHLY ABSORBENT, BREATHABLE, AND LEAKPROOF.
Given all the technical chemical ingredients in most disposables (which disposable manufacturers are not required to disclose), we acknowledge that reusable pads can’t be expected to perform in the same way as disposables. Reusable products are typically made with more natural and organic materials that require a different routine to be highly absorbent, breathable and leakproof.
AN END TO PAINFUL RASHESI've used Lunapads for 5 years and am very happy with them. I have a sensitive skin with a tendency for exzema, and Lunapads changed my life. Before I discovered them, I suffered inflammation and rash every month due to the usual plastic protections. I bought an Organic Cotton Starter Kit and haven't suffered rash once!
There are hundreds of thousands of people worldwide using Lunapads and The DivaCup who would never switch back, so clearly the added routine of caring for them is worth that little extra effort. Ask yourself if you would happily return to throwing away used bottles and newspapers rather than taking the time to recycle them for a similar perspective. Most customers love the convenience of being freed from having to repeatedly buy disposable supplies, particularly in unanticipated situations.
FINALLY COMFORTABLEFor years I've suffered from uncomfortable chafing and worrying about leaks while using disposable liners. Finally I am comfortable and confident during my period. I love the wide array of designs and colors - I own just about every pattern! Thanks, Lunapads, for making my time of month a happier one!
NON DRYING / NON IRRITATING & COMFORTABLE
Most disposable pads and tampons contain ingredients which can be potentially irritating to the skin.
When it comes to comfort, we can confidently say that our products are vastly superior to disposable products. Lunapads and Lunapanties are made with 100% cotton and 100% organic cotton -- soft, natural and breathable materials that are more akin to clothing.
STRUGGLED WITH SKIN SENSITIVITYI've struggled with sensitivity from pads for over 10 years and never knew what was causing the problems. Two weeks of discomfort out of every month and my skin allergies have become terrible so my doctor recommended trying washable pads. I recently purchased one of your starter kits and after 2 months all troubles are completely gone. Thank you for making such of an easy to use product and for making this transition a huge success! I will tell my friends about your company.
With respect to the DivaCup and tampons, the difference is even more marked. Have you ever felt excessively “dried out” by using tampons, especially towards the end of your period? This is because tampons don’t just absorb your menstrual flow, they also absorb your natural vaginal moisture, which can be uncomfortable. The DivaCup is a fantastic alternative to tampons and is widely celebrated among customers for being more comfortable than tampons, thanks to its non-absorbent functionality that results in reduced dryness.
ALL TAMPONS ARE OFFICIALLY EVICTED FROM MY PURSE!I've never been completely satisfied with disposable pads and tampons - the former is just all kinds of awkward-feeling and the latter dries me out. I finally took the plunge and got myself a DivaCup. Now I'm kicking myself for waiting so long! I feel like I'm not even having my period. I'm aware of the cup's presence, but it's still more comfortable than a tampon, and I don't feel dried-out at all. Undoubtedly, The DivaCup has led to the most comfortable period in history!
CONNECT WITH AND FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOUR BODY
Choosing to use natural menstrual pads or cups can also put you back in touch with your menstrual cycle or help you redefine the experience for yourself, on your own terms, which can lead to increased self-knowledge, acceptance, and even empowerment. Using disposable products can make you feel like a bio-hazard, and no one should have to feel that way.
CHANGED MY FEELINGS TOWARDS MY CYCLEI have endometriosis, so periods have always been something to dread, and have even felt vaguely traumatic. For years I suppressed my cycle with medications. I am now preparing my body for conception, and so the period is back. I decided to finally give Lunapads a try, and I'm so glad I did. I hadn't realized how uncomfortable disposable pads were until now, but what a difference! For the first time I actually found myself looking forward to my period, pain and all. It's hard to explain how Lunapads have changed my feelings towards my cycle, but they absolutely have.
Browse our Testimonials section for more success stories from our customers!
You've Got Options
Plastic pads are passé. Explore our fresh collection of healthy, reusable alternatives.
How to Choose
Find out which products are best suited to your flow, needs, and body.
Disposable pads, tampons, and light bladder leakage products can contain dioxins, pesticide residues, and adhesive chemicals.
Lunapads come with love, honesty, comfort, and a way to connect with my body that I never thought possible.
When you choose Lunapads, you change lives. Learn more about how your purchases help improve access to education for girls, while supporting local employment for women in Uganda.
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Since 1993, we have inspired our customers to feel more empowered about their periods, bodies, and consumer choices.