According to Grist:
Most tampons are made from rayon-cotton blends — an important distinction, because rayon is often chlorine-bleached, a process that releases the cancer-causing chemical dioxin. This toxin builds up in fatty tissue and has been linked to endometriosis, immune-system suppression, and other health problems. Since it’s in a product intended for our, ahem, most intimate of locations, there’s definitely another reason to be angry. Some companies offer tampons made of organic cotton, which is progress, and we’ve reviewed a few brands below. But tampons still pose a burden on the waste stream and the risk of toxic shock syndrome…
The good thing about tampons though–well, at least for the companies that make them–is that they’re disposable. You have to buy them again and again, and the company gets to profit from your purchase–again and again.
Indeed, according to Susan Strasser’s Waste and Want, sanitary pads were first invented as a way to make use of leftover “cellu-cotton,” a highly absorbent invention stockpiled for use in bandages during World War I. Geez, I guess that’s one way to get rid of your war surplus!
The good news, at least according to female readers of this blog, is that there are great reusable alternatives. They’re cheaper in the long run, safer and way better for the environment. As Emily from Food Origins once commented on this blog:
Re: pads, tampons, rags…my favorite answer is “None of the above.” Try the Diva cup or the Keeper. This is a silicone or latex cup – like a big thimble – that you wear internally and empty and rinse periodically. WAY cleaner than any of the usual Western methods and no waste! I know half a dozen women who have tried it, and not a one of them will go back to any other sanitary product.