Woman talking(l+r), Jar of poison(c)

Triff/Shutterstock @vianht05/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘I knew I wasn’t crazy’: Woman says she’s accidentally been poisoning herself monthly. You may be, too

‘I personally just give up.’


Stacy Fernandez


If you menstruate, listen up. A recent study found that many tampons contain lead and arsenic. However, experts are unclear about the health effects.

Launched in the 1930s as an alternative to reusable and disposable pads, tampons quickly became the go-to blood management method for menstruators.

While there was some initial taboo around whether a tampon could, in theory, “take a woman’s virginity,” many found that the small absorbent tampon gave them much-needed freedom during that time of the month. Tampons allowed them to more comfortably do physical activities like dancing and swimming that are otherwise uncomfortable or messy in a pad.

Nowadays, the grand majority of menstruators, up to 80%, choose tampons as their preferred period product (though menstrual cups and period panties have been on the rise in recent years), Today reported.

Yet, nearly a century later, there is limited research on tampons and whether they pose any health risks.

Last week, the University of California, Berkeley, released what may be the first study to measure the metals found in tampons.

“Concerningly, we found concentrations of all metals we tested for, including toxic metals like arsenic and lead,” said lead author Jenni A. Shearston, a postdoctoral scholar at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management. 

Metals like these increase the risk of dementia, infertility, diabetes, and cancer. They can also damage the liver, kidneys, brain, cardiovascular system, nervous system, and endocrine system and can hurt fetal development.

“Although toxic metals are ubiquitous and we are exposed to low levels at any given time, our study clearly shows that metals are also present in menstrual products and that women might be at higher risk for exposure using these products,” said study co-author Kathrin Schilling, assistant professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

However, it’s still unclear if the metals found in these studies actually contribute to negative health effects. UC Berkley plans to conduct further research to test how much of these metals leach out of the tampons and if they are absorbed by the body.

Online, more people have become aware of (and frankly alarmed by) this groundbreaking study due to a super viral TikTok PSA posted by Vianh Truong (@vianht05) that has more than 10 million views and counting. (It was also reposted by superstar Kehlani.)

“POV: You inadvertently poison yourself once a week every month,” the text overlay on her video read (though, as noted above, that isn’t the full story according to the study).

What tampons are free from metals?

In the TikTok, Truong, who looked highly concerned, shared that these metal levels are found in many popular brands. While she specifically mentions Tampax, the metals are found in 30 tampons across 14 brands.

For added context, these metals were detected in both organic and non-organic tampons.

While the Food and Drug Administration regulates tampons as medical devices, they have no requirements for tampons to be tested for chemicals, Axios reported.

And while these metals are commonly found in other products like rice and textiles, experts note there’s a difference between touching a metal versus it entering through the vagina since it could result in “higher exposure risk even from low concentrations.”

@vianht05 This explains a lot. #foryou #usa #trending ♬ original sound – vianht05

People in the comment section of the TikTok had a lot to say.

“I personally just give up,” a top comment read.

“Tampax is the only ones that make the ultra size tampons that I’ve been able to find, I bleed thru too easily with anything smaller what am I supposed to do,” a person shared.

“I knew I wasn’t crazy. I couldn’t use them past 3 days because they’d hurt my stomach and make me feel like I’m cramping. Once removed the pain would be gone,” another added.

The Daily Dot reached out to Truong for comment via Instagram direct message and to Tampax’s parent company, Procter and Gamble, via email.

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