Moldy Tampons: Let’s talk health!

by Amanda Hearn · 23 comments

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Image Courtesy of Parr for the Course

First things first. If you haven’t seen the moldy tampon you should!  The ‘ick’ factor is undeniable, but what’s worse is the company’s initial response to the customer, Danielle of Parr for the Course.  The letter from Kimberly-Clark read, in part:

“We understand how distressing it can be to find mold on a product that is used for personal hygiene and apologize for your concern.  In instances where it has been found, we conducted tests on the product involved and have found the mold to be a common environmental species that carries no health risk.  The vegetative mold is similar in nature to mold on vegetables or in baked goods.”

After the post went viral, Kimberly-Clark responded with a letter that read, in part:

In Betty’s eagerness to get back to your e-mail right away, she unfortunately sent you incorrect information concerning this issue.

Nothing is more important to us than consumer safety.  Any discoloration or abnormality with our tampons is extremely rare, and we want to do a full investigation to determine the source and follow-up with our manufacturing facility.  So if you still have the tampon, can you please return it to us by using the prepaid mailing envelope we’re sending you? ”

Mistakes happen, but is anyone buying this garbage?  Couple your uneasy feeling with the fact that Danielle has been contacted by several women who have had similar moldy tampon incidents, and you are left with a feeling of,  well…. you decide.

All of this insanity aside, my first thought was If this unused tampon alone can provide an atmostphere that a mold can happily grow in, what makes that a good choice for internal menstrual care?!

Kotex tampons are made from a blend of natural cotton and synthetic rayon (ingredients like rayon create the physical-chemical conditions that allow for TSST-1 toxin production – which can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome – Source You-Are-Loved.org), though the text on their box paints a different picture.  The actual Kotex box reads “Touch of Natural Cotton”, no mention of the  synthetic rayon.  Perhaps their box should look something more like this:

Looking for a safer option?  Check out these posts and please feel free to email me with any questions!
FAQ about various products (cups, cloth pads, sponges)

 

What are your thoughts on this matter?  Do you think that Kotex has handled this properly?  Has this event made you look into other menstrual care options?
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Krista March 29, 2012 at 12:14 pm

When I did use tampons, I don’t think I EVER looked at them before I inserted them. That is disgusting.

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Nicole March 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I also never looked! I wonder if this is the reason that all the applicators come in such pretty plastic colors. If they were plain thin white or clear applicators, you might see the discoloration from the mold.

Thank you AGAIN for providing so much information on non-toxic feminine care products. I’m so glad I recently made the switch and I will never go back.

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Amy Hartman March 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I’ve read a lot about your posts on alternatives to menstrual products, and I’m conflicted. I totally agree that that’s disgusting, but I have always hated using pads so ‘mama cloth’ wouldn’t be an option for me, and I have one major draw back to menstrual cups… Excuse me for sounding like a middle schooler here, lol, but isn’t it a little gross to have to insert the cup?? And take it out? What was it like for you when you made the switch for the first time??

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Brenna @ Almost All The Truth March 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I recently made the switch because I was so sick of the waste and hoped the menstrual cup claims it could reduce some of the leaking issues from heavy periods. It took 3 cycles for me to really get used to and it wasn’t gross at all, just different. And I am the type to get grossed out by things like that. It isn’t a huge investment, but lasts so long and is definitely worth a shot imo.

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Amanda March 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I resisted buying a cup for a long time. I thought that it was gross and that there was just no way I could reuse a menstrual product. I just could not wrap my head around it. I am also not a pad person, cloth or otherwise. I just don’t like them for me.

For the cups.. eventually curiosity got to me. I heard so many women rave about cups, so I decide to buy one. I waited for a good deal and picked a Diva Cup up for around $20. I didn’t expect to like it, or to even really use it beyond a cycle. I was very much on the fence.

I got the cup and I tried it out (no cycle) because I had heard that there was a learning curve, so I figured my best bet was to figure it out before it would be a potential hazard in my bathroom. It was pretty easy and when my next period came around I tried it out. I fully expected to fall back on tampons, but MUCH to my surprise it worked and was SO comfortable. Honestly, I forgot it was there at one point. Tampons cause dryness, but I never really realized how much they impact the vaginal environment. I have noticed a change, which is crazy and TMI, but it makes it more clear in my mind as to why I don’t want to use them, especially ones with synthetic fibers.

My suggestion is to try one. Worst case, you find out that it’s just not for you, but you may find out, like so many, that you love it. If you decide to try one and need any help or have questions, you are welcome to email me.

If a cup is out of the question, there are organic tampon brands that use only cotton and I would recommend going in that direction – Maxim Hygiene, Seventh Generation, Natracare to name a few.

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Amy March 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Thank you! I am definitely interested. And of course with having a toddler, and starting the potty learning stage, there is very little left to gross me out but like you said, it seems so hard to wrap your mind around at first!

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Bambi May 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I know this is very late, but I thought is might be interesting to hear my story about menstrual cups. I have several friends who use them and after having a tough time during a period (every tampon kept just not fitting right and I felt soo uncomfortable) my girlfriend suggested I try a Meluna Cup (can be purchased on Ebay actaully) When it came I was very skeptical but I inserted it anyway (took me a good 5 min) I waited about 2hrs and went to take it out (I am SOOOO not 1 to put my fingers in that area of my body) I did everything my friend said, relaxing, push like you;re delivering a baby and I couldn’t get it. I began to panic an after about 3min of it not coming down I was sure I was going to have to go to the ER!!!! I fianlly called my friend and asked what to do. Relax and try again. I did an whala it worked. I had some rough times my first 2 months but after getting the hang of it I would Never go back to tampons!!

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cathy March 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Oh geez! I have never looked either! Very disturbing!

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tiffany March 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Glad I use a diva cup! yuk!

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judi March 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I switched to the applicator free OB 20 years ago and I’m so glad. That’s just gross. I keep thinking about switching to the Diva cup or something similar but the entry price has kept me from taking the plunge. I won’t do mama cloth as I absolutely detest pads. I should save up the money I would be spending on OB (about $4 a month) while I’m breastfeeding and not getting cycles so that when my periods return I’ll be ready to take the plunge.

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AmyM March 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm

judi, you say that the cost is what is holding you back, but you can get a Diva Cup on Amazon for a little over $20! It’s half the cost of buying it elsewhere, and if I weren’t already pregnant again, I’d buy one right now! At $4 a month, you could “save it up” in 5 months. Order that cup and TRY it, hun! From what I’ve been told, you won’t regret it! :)

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Karla March 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Ick… no, I don’t think Kotex handled that properly; they downplayed the seriousness of something that was going to be inserted in a woman’s VAGINA, for crying out loud!

For both health and environmental reasons, I’ve been progressively switching to reusable options for feminine protection. I tried the Diva Cup and hated it and was wary of trying a different brand, so I tried sea sponges. I REALLY like them but they quickly disintegrated and it wasn’t worth it. I even considered cloth, reusable tampons!

After some research I settled on another cup, Lunette. I really like it – it’s easy to insert and remove, and it’s pretty comfy (sometimes poky, but I haven’t trimmed the stem, which is flexible). I think this is just one more step in being comfortable with your own body; it may take getting used to and – sure! – you have to wash your hands, but it’s nothing to be scared of. I do leak occasionally so I only wear it when I’m at home unless it’s a light day, wearing it in conjunction with cloth pads (both bought and homemade). When I go out I use the applicator-free OB tampons.

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Julia Schopick March 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm

What an awful thing to have happen. Kudos to Danielle for going public about it. Just as upsetting as the fact that she found mold in a tampon is the company’s response to her. But there are other little-known risks associated with these synthetic disposable menstrual products. One risk — still! — is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

I recently interviewed a survivor of this deadly disease — Suzan Hutchinson — for Keeper.com, the website of The Keeper and Moon Cup reusable menstrual cups. Susan is now a spokesperson for You-ARE-loved.org, an organization dedicated to educating women about the fact that Toxic Shock is still a threat, especially to younger women.

There are other options out there that women can use. One is reusable menstrual cups; another is reusable cotton menstrual pads. Both are also environment-friendly and pocketbook-friendly, because they are not tossed away after a single use. And as far as I know, there have been no cases of MOLD associated with either one of these options.

To listen to the interview with Suzan, please go to keeper.com/hutchinson.html.

Thanks so much.
Julia Schopick
Marketing Director
The Keeper, Inc.

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Jamie April 15, 2012 at 10:26 am

I was a faithful tampon user until I started going for acupuncture and “greening” up my life. I would have awful cramps and very heavy flow, which all lessened when I switched pads. I wonder if the chemicals were irritating me! I’m getting ready to take it a step further and either try cloth pads or a cup.

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Melanie Reed April 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Oh my Lord, that’s the kind of tampons I use! All the more reason I NEED the Diva Cup! Thank you so much for the information!

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Ani G W April 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm

OMG. That is so gross! Definitely makes me rethink what I’m putting into my body one week a month!!

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Nicole H. April 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Oh my goodness this is disturbing and scary! Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness about this.

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Theresa April 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

How could the mold be growing on cotton and rayon?? That’s so odd… I know this situation has probably a one in a billion chance of happening, but this just makes the decision to use menstrual cups that much easier for me.

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Angela Heffner May 2, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I heard about this about a week ago. I have been using reusable mama cloth for about a year and I LOVE it! This article alone though would convince me to make the switch to something else, if I hadn’t done so already!

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Rachel N July 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

That is so gross! I use the tampons in the applicator so how would I ever know if they were moldy? I think I am going to invest in a cup now.

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Tabatha July 18, 2012 at 6:38 am

Ewww! That’s gross, it’s not even like a pad where you look at it first. You put it inside your body without even being able to see inside! And the first response she got also basically told her it was okay to stick a moldy tampon up her vag!

“have found the mold to be a common environmental species that carries no health risk” Yes, yes it does! I don’t know any doctor who would recommend putting mold INSIDE your body

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Stacey October 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm

That is disgusting! I think all tampon manufactures should have to use clear applicators! The cup and pads and cloths and all that is not for everyone.

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