When she was 20, Molly Hayward, the founder of new tampon company Cora, had a pap smear that showed pre-cancerous cells in her cervix. For an otherwise healthy young woman, this was a rare and frightening diagnosis, and led her to think more deeply about what in her life might have affected her health. In her research, she came upon an everyday drugstore purchase: tampons. “I found that it has been proven that conventional, non-organic, cotton is heavily saturated in pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive illness, and infertility,” she says. “Not to mention direct health impacts for the farmers growing it and environmental devastation in the areas they’re applied.”
Because the vagina contains some of the most absorbent and sensitive tissues in the female body, it is especially vulnerable to harmful chemicals. Whether a woman is on her period or not, substances placed in the vagina go directly into a woman’s bloodstream. And, as it turns out, ingredients like rayon, polyester, artificial fibers, dyes, bleach, and other components that are used to produce mass-market tampons may not be what you want to put inside you. Conventional cotton is one of the world’s most sprayed crops, responsible for about 16% of the world’s pesticides, and cotton treated with these chemicals have been found to contain glyphosate, a controversial pesticide potentially linked to cancer.
To offer an alternative, a new group of new tampon companies–Cora, along with competitors Lola, Veeda, and Conscious Period–are offering something cleaner and more organic, part of an emerging market for 100% cotton, all-natural and organic tampons and sanitary products. All are founded on the principle that women should know exactly what materials they are putting into one of the most sensitive parts of their bodies each month.
While some major tampon manufacturers list ingredients, FDA regulations don’t require it. “When we found out that feminine care brands aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products, it made us wonder: What’s in our tampons?” says Alex Friedman, cofounder of Lola, whose tampons are 100% organic cotton and come with BPA-free applicators.