Tampons may have ‘toxic levels’ of lead and arsenic in them, study warns

Tampons sold under various popular brands may contain toxic metals such as arsenic and lead, according to a recent study out of the University of Berkeley in California.

The study, published in the latest volume of Environmental International, found that all 30 tampons tested from 14 brands — including organic tampons — contained lead, with some showing concerning levels of other toxic metals like arsenic.

“We selected several different products and tested them for a panel of 16 different metals. And we found concentrations of every single one of the metals we tested. For some of the metals, like lead, which is toxic, we found a presence in every single one of the tampons we tested. So we found a lot of metals,” said lead author Jenni Shearston, a postdoctoral student at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

But despite the large potential for public health concern, she told Global News, very little research has been done to measure chemicals in tampons.

Menstruators may use more than 7,400 tampons over their reproductive years, with each tampon being retained in the vagina for several hours, the study said. They are typically made from cotton, rayon, or a blend of both materials.

In Canada, tampons are regulated as medical devices by Health Canada. The health regulator’s website states it “makes sure that the tampons sold in Canada are safe, effective, and of high quality based on requirements for licensing, quality manufacture, and post-market surveillance.”

In an email to Global News on Tuesday, Health Canada said it, “monitors information related to the safety of medical devices that are marketed for sale in Canada, including menstrual tampons. Health Canada will assess the findings of the study and will take action if warranted. ”

The study raises concerns that those current regulations may not be enough.

Tampons are of particular concern as a potential source of exposure to chemicals, including metals, because the skin of the vagina has a higher potential for chemical absorption than skin elsewhere on the body, according to the study.

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