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Here's 4 alternative - and safer - period products

New research has found traces of 'toxic' metals in tampons. (Getty Images)
New research has found traces of 'toxic' metals in tampons. (Getty Images)

Having to put up with the pain and inconvenience of periods is bad enough, but now we've discovered some toxic metals could be lurking in tampons sold across the US and Europe.

Quick overview

Researchers tested 30 tampons from 14 different brands and the findings, published in Environmental International, discovered all 16 metals they were testing for in each type.

The metals found included arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, copper, and iron, among others.

Findings of metal levels varied depending on whether the tampons were sold in the US, UK, or EU, whether they were organic or not, and whether they were branded or supermarket lines.

The study is now sounding an alarm for stricter regulations on tampon testing as the products are particularly dangerous if contaminated with harmful substances as they come into direct contact with the vagina, where they are more easily absorbed.

"This study is crucial because it sheds light on a previously under-researched area of women's health," explains Valentina Milanova, women's health expert and founder of gynaecological health company Daye.

"Tampons are used by millions of people worldwide, often for decades, yet there has been limited investigation into their potential chemical composition and associated health impacts. The fact that toxic metals were found in all tested samples across multiple brands highlights a systemic issue in the industry that needs urgent attention.

Woman holding a tampon. (Getty)
The tampons were found to have traces of arsenic and lead in them. (Getty)

Milanova says the potential impact on those who menstruate could be substantial.

"The vaginal tissue is highly absorptive, meaning these toxic metals could potentially enter the bloodstream directly, bypassing the body's natural filtration systems," she explains.

"Lead exposure, even at low levels, can cause neurological issues, affect cognitive function, and impact reproductive health. Arsenic is a known carcinogen and can lead to various health problems, including cardiovascular disease and skin conditions."

With that in mind we spoke to the menstruation experts to get their suggestions for more down-there friendly alternatives.

Period-proof underwear

Since the first period pants were launched, back in 2018, the products have come a long way, with many high street chains and supermarkets now stocking them.

Period underwear now comes in a range of styles to suit your preferences, budget and flow – from high-waisted briefs to thongs, period swimwear and seamless undies.

Zero waste periods kit. (Getty Images)
Reusable sanitary pads are another option. (Getty Images)

Designed to save women hundreds of pounds each year as they’ll no longer need to fork out for costly tampons and towels, period pants could also have an impact on the plastic problem too.

The knickers are made of super absorbent material, allowing them to function a bit like traditional sanitary pads, but without the waste.

When it comes to washing the official advice is to rinse them after use, then either machine wash on a cool cycle or hand wash them (see washing instructions on label).

This signature Classic Bikini combines everyday comfort with extra protection. Made from breathable bamboo for no more sweaty sleeps, this style is perfect for keeping you covered on your heaviest period days or nights.

£15 at ModiBodi

Shop period underwear from ModiBodi Shop period underwear from WUKA Shop period underwear from Bodyform Shop period underwear from Blomma Beauty

You also shouldn't use fabric conditioner, which can make them less effective and don’t tumble dry or leave them to dry on a radiator.

In terms of brands ModiBodi, WUKA, NORA and Bodyform Intimawear are all popular choices, as are the Blomma Beauty, Nüdie Period Pants, RRP £19.95, which are designed to absorb up to four tampon and can be worn for up to 10hrs.


From reusable applicators, which you use, rinse and reuse, to cloth sanitary pads that can be washed and reused, the options for reusable products are on the rise.

Washable cloth pads work similarly to a standard pad, and can be washed in the washing machine with your other laundry.

There are lots of brands available to choose from including Bloom & Nora, Honour Your Flow and Eco Femme.

You can also purchase the first reusable tampon applicator by DAME at Boots.

Go organic

Organic cotton tampons, which are free from harmful chemicals and pesticides, can be a safer choice.

"Most conventional tampons on the market are made from synthetic rayon fibres, leading to issues down the line," explains DeoDoc founders and sisters, Dr Hedieh Asadi and Hasti Asadi.

"The plastics and fibres in these products can shed inside of the vagina, causing irritation, while the lack of breathability in synthetic materials can lead to odour."

Organic pads are also a growing option, with some made with sustainably-produced, natural and organic cotton, making them totally biodegradable and others made from bamboo.

Grace and Green offer bamboo pads, free from synthetic fibres or fragrances with biodegradable wrappers.

'Safer' tampons

Of course not all tampons are created equally, so if you’re looking for the safest tampons to use, you should go for tampons certified organic by reputable organisations.

"The menstrual product industry currently lacks stringent regulations," explains Milanova. "At Daye, we've advocated for stricter tampon regulations for years.

Daye's tampons are made with 100% organic cotton and contain no plastic. They come in applicators made from renewable sugarcane and are wrapped in an ocean-safe, flushable material.

£8 at Daye

"Our tampons are made with 100% organic cotton and contain no plastic," she continues. "They come in applicators made from renewable sugarcane and are wrapped in an ocean-safe, flushable material. They also have a protective sleeve that stops fibres from shedding inside the vagina and are sanitised with gamma rays to remove contaminants that can cause TSS and infections."

Other 'healthier' tampon options include: DeoDoc Organic Cotton Tampons, £6 at Cult Beauty.

Made by women for women, DeoDocs 100% Organic Cotton Tampons are made without viscose/rayon and non-chlorine bleached cotton, are unscented, FDA-approved and clinically tested to be non-irritating and hypoallergenic.

£6 at Cult Beauty

"Naturally absorbent tampons made of 100% organic cotton - and nothing else!" the founders explain. "The soft cotton layers give an ultra-comfortable fit and are designed to prevent fibre shedding inside of the vagina. Made without plastics and synthetics, which keeps your vagina and the planet plastic free."

Menstrual cups

According to Women’s Environmental Network, menstrual cups are inserted like a tampon, collect rather than absorb blood, and can be worn up to 12 hours depending on the brand and your flow.

Menstrual cups and organic tampons are just two of the ways to have a 'safer' period. (Getty Images)
Menstrual cups and organic tampons are just two of the ways to have a 'safer' period. (Getty Images)

Most also come in two or three sizes.

In addition to Mooncup, which is perhaps the best known brand in the UK, common brands include Intimina, Athena Cup, Saalt and Organicup.

Made in the UK, the soft medical grade silicone Mooncup holds three times as much as a tampon, making it great for heavy days. And, because it’s non-absorbent, it won’t cause dryness when your period’s light.

£24 at Boots

Blomma Beauty, Nüdie Reusable Period Cup, RRP £23.50, in two sizes is another alternative. Made from 100% hypo-allergenic soft medical-grade silicone, it is designed to be worn while travelling, swimming and exercising for up to 12 hours.

Aside from the most recent metal study, further research has revealed that PFAS ("forever chemicals") and other concerning substances are present in a wide range of menstrual products, not just tampons.

"Laboratory analyses have detected these chemicals in pads, liners, period underwear, and even tampon wrappers and applicators," explains Milanova. "While some tampon samples were PFAS-free, high concentrations were found in plastic tampon packaging. Some studies also suggest that period cups may contain PFAS.

Milanova says it is also important to note that even products marketed as "organic," "non-toxic," or "sustainable" have sometimes tested positive for PFAS.

Therefore, she recommends consumers should:

  • Stay informed about the latest research on menstrual product safety.

  • Seek products that have undergone independent testing to verify the absence of PFAS and other harmful chemicals.

  • Directly contact manufacturers about their use of potentially harmful substances in products and packaging

  • Support initiatives for stricter regulations and transparency in the menstrual product industry