Your Dirty Little Secret


Did you know that discarded tampons and disposable pads contribute hugely to landfill waste? In the US alone, there are over 85 million women of menstruating age, and according to the National Women’s Health Network, they contribute approximately twelve billion pads and 7 million tampons to landfill each year. And this is just part of the problem.

The impact caused by a lifetime use of tampons and pads means not only that each one of us is partaking in huge environmental waste, but that we are also subjecting our bodies to a list of dangerous toxins which are known to be cancer causing.

Plastics, chlorine bleach, pesticides, synthetic materials, petroleum and a number of other chemicals… are just a few of the elements that make up the products that are in intimate contact with our bodies every month of our lives, for over 30 years.

That’s just insane.

And when it comes to finding out what actually is in a tampon, and what the dangers are, most brands are so tight-lipped, the list of ingredients on the back of the box are vague at best.

So, what to do? As women and mothers, we need to get educated, and get informed about what is actually in our feminine hygiene products, what alternatives are out there and what are the benefits of switching to an organic brand.

For this reason NCW took a moment to interview Susie Hewson, founder and owner of Natracare, as she talks about her line of organic feminine hygiene products and how it all got started.

Susie Hewson natracare 2 copy


NCW: Susie, you launched Natracare back in 1989. What prompted you to start the company? 

Susie:  I did not start Natracare because I wanted to create a business; I began because I was angry that the products out there were making women and the planet sick.

My years of involvement {with environmental causes} made me aware of the problems being created in our environment. Back in 1989, I saw a documentary about the growing danger to human health and the environment caused by Dioxin pollution from pulping industries with the chlorine bleaching of paper products. What especially made me angry was the irreversible environmental damage created by Dioxin, plastic and petrochemicals; enough to want to at least make a difference to one corner of the retail shelf where feminine hygiene products contribute to this environmental pollution and impact women’s health in particular.

I was so appalled, that very same day I began to research and develop the world’s first alternative to conventionally produced feminine hygiene.

NCW: What is toxic Dioxin and why is it bad for us? 

Susie: Dioxin is an organochlorine and is classed as carcinogenic, i.e. cancer causing. Many industrial processes, as well as pesticide spraying, releases dioxin into our air, water and soil. Detectable residuals remain in products bleached with any type of chlorine or sprayed with pesticides. Many familiar products, such as solvents, pesticides, plastics, disinfectants, plastic packaging, involve the use of elemental chlorine or chlorine gas in their production. Many products made from pulp products are bleached with chlorine so that can affect tampons made with rayon as well as sanitary pads. Dioxin accumulates in the body over time from birth, so heightened exposure means heightened risk.

NCW: In what ways has the feminine hygiene industry changed in the last 25 years?

Susie: Tampons have changed very little in the materials they are made from since they still use rayon and conventionally grown cotton. So I could argue nothing changed other than Natracare came along with 100% organic cotton tampons.

NCW: What differentiates Natracare from conventional feminine hygiene companies?

Susie: Conventional brands have added lubricants and fragrances to their tampons and a few grooves and twists as well as plastic non-woven overwraps to reduce fiber shedding. Natracare uses long fiber organic cotton, which sheds almost nothing during use. Conventional sanitary pads have continued to use chlorine-bleached pulp, plastic nonwovens described as “cotton-like” and petroleum based superabsorbent gels. A recent scary development by some manufacturers is the use of chemical foams in place of fluff pulp to absorb the menstrual fluid. Ingredients lists have not been added to packaging, so all in all, the innovation in organic and natural feminine hygiene has been all down to Natracare whilst the conventional brands continue to roll on down the chemical and synthetic route.

NCW: How do your source your primary materials? What makes you an independently “green” labeled brand?

Susie: We have full traceability for all the materials and ingredients we use in all of Natracare products. I source only accredited and certified organic and natural materials that are produced according to audited organic and ecological standards. Our products and my company is audited and inspected by independent, accredited agencies to international authorized standards. So we hold an organic accreditation, three ecological accreditations and two ethical accreditations. We never “self-certify.”

NCW: What is the most challenging aspect in competing with non-organic brands?

Susie: Lack of education about what women are using when applying conventional pads and tampons. Cost is sometimes an issue but only when retailers apply their own high margins.

NCW: Do organic tampons and pads have a higher risk of leakage?

Susie: No, Natracare does not. But we do not use petroleum derived super absorbents or chemical foams as in conventional products. The tampons are regulated devices and conform to medical device regulations.

NCW: Among the full range of 20+ products, you also manufacture maternity pads and baby wipes, do you feel that today’s mothers better or more quickly understand the value of organic fibers? 

Susie: Probably not. There is the need for more media attention to make the connection between irritation and soreness with conventional materials they are exposing themselves to.

NCW: And finally what is your biggest hope {for the brand}?

Susie: That women come to understand what I have tried to do on their behalf in developing Natracare. That they will see the harm that conventional products do to the environment and our climate.


For more information about feminine hygiene visit Natracare’s Website