TOXIC METALS IN TAMPONS MEDIA STATEMENT 8 July 2024 Wen response to lead and toxic metals found in tampons.

8 July 2024

Wen response to lead and toxic metals found in tampons.

In response to new research finding toxic metals including lead, arsenic, and cadmium in tampons purchased in the UK, Wen (the Women’s Environmental Network) is calling for a Menstrual Health, Dignity and Sustainability Act to address period equity, education, and product regulation. 


Responding to the research, Wen’s Expert Adviser and Environmenstrual Campaign Lead, Helen Lynn says:

“This research, once again, shows why we need regulation. For many metals like lead there is no safe level of exposure and the vulva is a very absorbent place. Health effects associated with exposure to some of these metals include cancer, infertility, damage to the liver, kidney and brain and in the case of lead, neurological and development damage, especially to the developing foetus.

“We are exposed to background levels of metals through our diet and pollution but the researchers suggest that additives to tampons could be the source. Zinc and Calcium were found in high concentrations and these can be added to tampons for odour control, lubrication, or as antimicrobial agents. But none of the products studied listed Zinc as an additive, even those purchased in New York State where there is a legal requirement to list all ingredients.

“We are not allowed to see what anti-odour substances manufacturers secretly add to period products, or what materials they are made from. This is why we need to urgently regulate all period products plus have a requirement to list all the ingredients on the label.

“Ultimately, we need to stop seeing toxic chemicals and metals in a product used by millions of women, girls and those who menstruate. Our health needs to be prioritised above all else.”


Why we need a Menstrual Health, Dignity and Sustainability Act

Wen is calling for a Menstrual Health, Dignity and Sustainability Act in the UK to address the health and waste impacts, period equity and dignity, education, regulation, and challenge stigma and taboos. 

Menstruation is a human rights issue as well as a public health issue – impacting women, girls and people who menstruate in many different ways. This is why we need an act that encompasses all aspects of menstruation.

There has been a huge upsurge in new reusable products coming on the market such as period pants and menstrual discs. While innovation is great, it also highlights the urgent need for regulation to ensure the safety and sustainability of new and existing products.

There is also concern that UK chemical rules are falling far behind the EU post-Brexit. Recent analysis shows that in the four-and-a-half years since Brexit the EU has agreed to ban, restrict or require clear safety warnings on 46 chemicals. By contrast, the UK has added just one chemical to the watchlist it inherited from Europe.


Read about Wen’s Menstrual Health, Dignity and Sustainability Act –


So what can we do? 

  • Choose GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified products – Period products which have a GOTs certification require testing for metals so choose GOTs certified organic single use disposables. 
  • Alternatively, opt for increasingly popular reusables such as cups, pants and pads.

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