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Toxic metals found in popular tampon brands, study says

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Tampons are used by more than half of people in the U.S. who menstruate, according to UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

A U.S. study has found traces of toxic metals including lead and arsenic in multiple tampon products.

The University of California Berkeley led the world’s first known study into the presence of metals in tampons.

Researchers detected traces of 16 types of metal in dozens of samples.

Here’s what you need to know.

Background

Tampons are used by more than half of people in the U.S. who menstruate, according to UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Researchers estimate a person can use over 7,400 tampons in their reproductive lifetime.

Despite their popularity, there is limited research measuring chemicals in tampons. The report noted particular concern around the high sensitivity of vaginal skin, and the risks of chemical absorption.

Study

Researchers analysed 14 brands of tampons. The sample group included tampons purchased in the U.S, overseas and online, as well as organic and non-organic products.

The tampons were tested for 16 types of metals.

Lead author Dr Jenni A. Shearston said: “We found concentrations of all metals we tested for, including toxic metals like arsenic and lead.”

Toxic metals detected in tampons included arsenic, lead, nickel, and mercury. They were detected across “all types of tampons”.

Non-organic tampons had higher concentrations of lead, which the study said has “no safe exposure level”. Organic tampons had higher traces of arsenic.

Cotton tampons may have absorbed metals from water, air, soil or nearby contaminants.

Metals could also be added to tampons during manufacturing, through intentional processes like colouring or the use of antibacterial agents.

Toxic metals have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, infertility, diabetes, and cancer.

However it remains unclear if the metals detected in the study are linked to any negative health effects from their presence in tampons.

The study has called for more research to investigate if metals in tampons can be absorbed by the body, and the potential health implications.

Australia

In Australia, tampons are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Before a tampon can be approved for sale, it must meet several TGA standards.

This includes an 80mm string and clear absorbency labels. Tampons have to be made from approved materials like cotton or viscose rayon.

Tampons containing a “sufficient concentration” of harmful ingredients are banned.

“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 Assistant Professor Kathrin Schilling.

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