Tampons have been a subject of fierce debate on whether or not they cause long term health problems. One of the major issues that have been raised is that tampon manufacturers are highly secretive about tampon ingredients such that it raises questions.
In the US, tampons are classified as "medical devices" and as such do not require full disclosure when being probed for safety certification.
"Consumer groups in the United States have been wanting to know more since the 1980s. A growing environmental movement and awareness about toxic shock syndrome prompted women to ask what was in these products because manufacturers weren't required to fully disclose what goes into a tampon or pad. That's because they are regulated and approved as medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration and full disclosure is not required," wrote Nadia Kounang on CNN.
The article further states that 'when Women's Voices for the Earth tested P&G's Always pads, it found the sanitary napkins emitted chemicals, like styrene, chloroethane and chloroform. The World Health Organization classifies styrene as a carcinogen. And the EPA says short-term exposure to high concentrations of chloromethane can have neurological effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says high levels of exposure to chloroethane can result in lack of muscle coordination and unconsciousness'
American Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who sparked Kounang's article, wrote an op-ed in The Guardian arguing that women" know where (their) tampon goes. It's time (they) knew what goes into it, too."
One of the major concerns raised by the Congresswoman was that there was no major studies showing the long term effects of tampon use on women over a long period of time.
"The multi-billion dollar feminine hygiene industry likes to say that the amounts of those toxins in a single tampon is very low. But the average woman who uses tampons will use over 16,800 during the course of her lifetime – and there is almost no data on the health effects of the cumulative use of tampons over a woman’s lifetime."
Salon offers insight as to why talking about tampons may be such a contentious issue for society. Hint: it has to do with society stigmatising women's bodies. In a poignant article; Toxic tampons: How ordinary feminine care products could be hurting women;
“I think the question of how toxic [feminine care products] might be is one of those things that is not talked about because there is a such a mystique around the vagina,” says Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and a WVE board member. “It’s highly taboo and something that’s not supposed to be discussed in polite company.”