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Toxic Tampons? Researchers find lead & arsenic in tampons brands.

I was stopped in my tracks today when I read this today: Arsenic, lead & other toxic metals found in tampons.


So what’s the deal? 

UC Berkeley's research team recently conducted a thorough analysis of various tampon brands with a primary focus of detecting heavy metals. The study, which was published in  Environmental International, found that all 30 tampons tested from 14 brands (and shockingly, included organic tampons) contained lead. Some also showed concerning levels of other toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium & mercury.

One of the things that makes this particularly scary, the vagina has skin more permeable than other parts of the body, which means toxins can absorb more easily.

The Findings

UC Berkeley's research team conducted a thorough analysis of various tampon brands available on the market. Their primary focus was to detect the presence of heavy metals, which are known to pose severe health risks even at low exposure levels. The study identified traces of several heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, and mercury, in a significant number of the tampons tested.

  • Lead: Known to cause neurological damage, particularly in developing brains, lead exposure is especially concerning for reproductive health.

  • Cadmium: Linked to kidney damage, bone demineralization, and cancer, cadmium is another harmful contaminant found in some tampon samples.

  • Mercury: Exposure to mercury can affect the nervous system, leading to cognitive impairments and other serious health issues.

Health Implications

The presence of heavy metals in tampons raises serious health concerns. Tampons are used in direct contact with mucous membranes, which can absorb these metals more readily than skin. Chronic exposure, even at low levels, can accumulate over time and lead to long-term health problems.

  1. Reproductive Health: Heavy metals like lead and cadmium can impair reproductive health, potentially leading to issues like infertility and developmental problems in fetuses.

  2. Cancer Risk: Both cadmium and lead are classified as carcinogens, increasing the risk of cancers, particularly those affecting reproductive organs.

  3. Neurological Impact: Heavy metals can cross the blood-brain barrier, leading to cognitive impairments and other neurological issues.

A few important things to note on this research:

  • The brands included in the study were not named

  • This research was conducted on products purchased in US, EU & UK - no Australian purchased products were included. (Any Aussie tampon makers want to weigh in?)

  • One of the researchers is quoted to say “We don’t know if the lead can actually come out of the tampon and be absorbed into the body. So while we are finding these metals present in the tampon, we can’t say if it’s contributing to any health effect at this point”  but believe their findings show a need for further testing and stricter regulations.

  • The researchers did, however, point out that “vaginally absorbed chemicals do not undergo first-pass metabolism and detoxification via the liver” — and instead, “directly enter systemic circulation.”

I personally haven’t used tampons in a long while, but I think I’ll continue to steer clear of them in light of this information.

So what products do I personally use and recommend?

Period Undies

There are a lot of period undies available on the market now with their huge rise in popularity. Unfortunately there have been brands found to have PFAS (forever chemicals) present in their undies. Make sure when choosing a brand you opt for one that are transparent and ensure no PFAS. Such as:

Menstrual Cups/Discs

Look for products made with 100% medical grade silicone.


The organic brands that I have used & recommended in the past are listed below. These brands, to my knowledge, adhere to the best low tox standards. If you do have any concerns about possible heavy metal contamination my best advice is to reach out to the brands directly.


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