"Eww"; it's a reaction we hear a lot from people who are learning about the concept of reusable menstrual products for the first time.
Frankly, we aren't surprised that people are uncomfortable with the idea, given the amount of fear and shame that has followed menstruation around, pretty much since the dawn of humanity.
With all the negative advertising used to sell conventional menstrual products, the culture of silence surrounding menstruation, and the apparent lack of interest from the scientific and medical community in regards to menstrual issues, there's a lot of baggage and misinformation to overcome in order for people to get comfortable with their reproductive systems and their byproducts. I'm frankly encouraged and impressed by the amount of people who DO use reusable menstrual products!
And yet the "Eww" factor always manages to baffle me. We hear it from all kinds of people; tampon users, disposable pad users, cloth diapering moms, feminists, environmentalists, young and old. The reason is always the same, "You want me to wash my pads/cup and use them again!? Isn't that unsanitary?"
Well guess what, folks? I am here to tell you that the disposable products you may currently be using might not be as "sanitary" as you think.
For most menstrual products that's not necessarily the end of the world. Pads are worn externally and since most folks don't sterilize their underwear, the sterility of externally worn products isn't really a necessity. Things get a little trickier when it comes to tampons, however.
The vagina contains some of the most sensitive and absorbent tissue in our bodies and it's because of this that tampon usage can be potentially dangerous. Disposable menstrual products are manufactured and packaged in a factory setting, not a sterile environment by any means, and all that plastic wrapping? Doesn't necessarily mean anything. You can seal anything in plastic, it doesn't mean that it's sterile. We already don't know what ingredients might be used in disposable tampons, as manufacturers are not required to disclose this information. While one could argue that the materials used to make tampons are probably safe-ish (The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics begs to differ) sometimes things end up in tampons that even the manufacturers don't expect.
Today we stumbled across this highly disturbing post from parrforthecourse.com. Her story? That she found a moldy tampon in a brand new box of tampons. Ya, you read that right; MOLDY. This kind of moldy:
Tampon images via parrforthecourse.comDanielle reported the incident to the manufacturer and in their initial response they state that they have performed studies and found that the kind of mold it appears to be is "a common environmental species that carries no health risk" and that they "are diligently reviewing our manufacturing process to ensure this problem does not recur."
While this mold doesn't carry a health risk this time, wouldn't you rather have better knowledge and control over the substances that you are inserting into your body? Personally I am far more grossed out by the idea of a moldy tampon than by the prospect of having to, heaven forbid, TOUCH my own menstrual fluid and wash it off of a Lunapad or DivaCup!