Ann Borowski


This research investigates environmental and health concerns related to disposable tampons and sanitary napkins. Much like diapers, tampons and sanitary napkins are comprised of synthetic materials that do not readily decompose. A woman will menstruate for approximately 40 years of her life. During that time, a significant amount of disposable feminine hygiene products accumulate in landfills and at times wash up on the shores of local beaches. Additionally, during the manufacturing and bleaching process, there is potential for dioxin to be created which has both health and environmental impacts. From a health perspective, many women experience discomfort, infection, and in some cases, are stricken with cancer. Given that disposables are a potential concern from a health and environmental perspective, this study examined the following question: "Are American women turning to reusable and greener menstrual products due to health and environmental pollution concerns"? For this work, 160 people were surveyed to answer this question and determine if women were aware of these environmental and health issues and if they knew of greener and healthier alternatives other than conventional disposable pads and tampons. Additionally, interviews were conducted with a product developer of conventional pads and tampons, a manufacturer of reusable pads and feminine cups, a therapist who has worked with consumer development, as well as a woman who uses alternative menstruation products. The results of the study suggest that women are most concerned about the price of products and environmental impact. Many women would consider switching to a "greener" product such as a 100% organic cotton tampon or pad, but as learned during interviews and additional research, the definition of "green" is open for debate. While reusable menstruation products such as reusable pads or insertable cups are in fact the "greenest" option, many women would not consider these as they must be cleaned or laundered. Although this research suggests that women are willing to consider reusable and greener menstrual products, there needs to be a better understanding of what is indeed "green" from both a health and environmental perspective. As learned in this research, what is better for the environment is not always better from a women's health perspective. Key Words: green; greener, greenest; menstruation; period; disposable; pads; sanitary napkins; tampons; insertable cups; feminine products; feminine cups; feminine hygiene; alternative menstruation products; reusable; safety; decompose; decomposition; biodegrade; gynecological; environment; environmental; organic; cotton; rayon; synthetic fibers; health, women's health; pollution; waste; purchasing; cost.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Feminine hygiene products--Environmental aspects; Feminine hygiene products--Health aspects; Feminine hygiene products--Public opinion; Green products--Public opinion

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Civil Engineering Technology Environmental Management and Safety (CAST)


Morelli, John


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: RG108 .B67 2011


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