The Tampax tampons with cardboard applicators claim to be biodegradable although the Pearl variety are not since the applicator is plastic. Some organic companies have come out with organic tampons that are biodegradable, like Natracare or Seventh Generation (http://www.pristineplanet.com/organic-tampons-organic-cotton-tampons-natural-tampons-natracare-organic-biodegradable-tampons-Natracare/tampons/26187_a_0.html).
To date, it seems the best choice for the environment is the Diva Cup. It is reusable and no waste is involved. http://www.divacup.com/
Some tampons are biodegradable. The purely cotton tampons will break down just like any other cotton substance. There are great organic options available now that also tout biodegradable applicators too.
Here’s a list of eco-friendly options.
One company, Natracare, offers this FAQ page for further details.
One of the issues with conventional tampons is that they contain chemicals from the bleaching process that is done purely to make the cotton whiter. It’s not for sanitary reasons at all. One byproduct, Dioxin, is fatal in large doses and is related to toxic shock syndrome. With billions of tampons in the landfills, the dioxin amounts quickly increase and can leach into the land and water supplies.
You also have to consider the plastic wrapper that the tampon comes it. So while some parts of conventional tampons are biodegradable, there are parts that aren’t.
Consider using cloth pads, the diva cup/moon cup, Instead, or organic biodegradable pads/tampons.
Elaborating on the answers above, there are multiple reasons to pay attention to the kind of tampon you use. As the answer above notes, you don’t want certain toxic chemicals in that very sensitive area of your body, not to mention in the ground(water). I am an advocated of natural organic tampons, but I do think the diva cup is the best idea. It inserts much like a tampon, and simply catches the liquid. It can be cleaned and reused every cycle, so it is a sound investment both environmentally and economically. Check your local natural grocer for specialty female hygiene products like these.
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