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What to Know About Disposing of Used Tampons

For most women, menstruation, or "having their period," is a normal part of the month. When you have your period, you'll need to use something to catch blood and other menstrual fluid. What you use to catch your menstrual fluid is known as a “menstrual device” — a term that can mean anything from a tampon to a sea sponge.

If you don't keep your vagina clean during your period, you have an increased risk of catching a urinary tract infection (UTI) or other infection. Using a menstrual device can help you lower your chance of getting an infection.

Many women use tampons to catch blood and other menstrual fluid during their period. When you use a tampon, it’s important to know how to dispose of it safely. 

Learning this information can help you stay healthy each month. It can also prevent you from accidentally harming the environment or the people around you. 

What to Do

There are a couple of ways to safely dispose of your tampons. 

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Wrap and throw in trash. One choice is to wrap your used tampon in toilet paper or a paper towel so that all fluids are contained. Then, throw it away in the nearest trash can. 

Use a self-sealing disposal bag. You can carry these in your purse or backpack. You can place used tampons inside, seal them, and throw them in the trash. They will keep you from exposing another person to your bodily fluids. Period disposal bags also let you throw away a tampon at a friend's house without being embarrassed that they will see what's inside.

Risks of Disposing of Used Tampons

Transmitting a disease through bodily fluids. One major health risk is the fact that used tampons contain bodily fluids. Although your bodily fluids won’t harm you, they can pose a risk to other people, including your spouse, children, and friends. If you use a public restroom, your menstrual fluids may even harm strangers. 

Bodily fluids can transmit any number of diseases, including HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. It’s possible to have a blood-borne illness (an illness that can be transmitted through blood) without knowing it and to give that disease to others. 

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Even if you don't think you have a blood-borne illness, you should be careful about how you get rid of your tampons.

Harm to the environment. Disposing of tampons can also be dangerous to the environment. Feminine hygiene products like tampons or pads can take up to 800 years to naturally decompose. Until they decompose, tampons can sit in landfills.

Flushing tampons down the toilet allows tampons to get into the ocean, which can harm wildlife and contribute to global warming.

Clogged toilets. Unfortunately, you can't safely flush tampons down the toilet. Plumbing systems can't handle tampons, and tampons are not biodegradable. 

Alternatives to Using Tampons

There are several safe alternatives to using tampons, some of which are cheaper or have a lower impact on the environment.

Some tampon alternatives include:  

  • Disposable pads 
  • Menstrual cups 
  • Reusable sea sponges  
  • Menstrual underwear 
  • Reusable pads  
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Time To Have the Tampon Talk With Your Daughter? 5 Tips for Teaching Her How to Use One," "Tired of Tampons? Here are the Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cups."

Duquesne University School of Nursing: "The Ultimate Guide to Feminine Hygiene."

Gooch, C. and Wadwha, R. StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2021. 

Mayo Clinic:  "Hand-washing: Do's and don'ts," “Toxic shock syndrome."

The New York Times: “Period Activists Want Tampon Companies to Disclose Ingredients.”

Public Administration and Development: "From women for women: The role of social media in online nonprofit activities during Wuhan lockdown."

Public Health Reports: “Sanitary product use by white, black, and Mexican American women.”

SpringerPlus: "A survey on the disposal of blood-contaminated tampon after dental extraction." 

UNICEF: “FAST FACTS: Nine things you didn't know about menstruation." 

United States Environmental Protection Agency: "Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Frequent Questions."

Water Management: "Inappropriate flushing of menstrual sanitary products."  

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