Casting light on the unspeakable

Use of plastic applicators harmful to the environment

Dear Sir:

I speak of the unspeakable: the plastic Tampon applicator, now available in Fearless, Radiant and Pearlized colors. Purples, blues, pinks and greens. I don’t have a biology degree but my powers of deduction tell me that when phytoplankton are ingesting micro-particles of plastic you have to ask yourself whether a contributing factor may be the ground up particles of those pretty, little, ubiquitous plastic tampon applicators.

New research shows tiny pieces of plastic could pose a major threat to the waters off the B.C. coast according to research published in the Journal: Marine Pollution Bulletin (Vol 79 Feb 15/14). It shows tiny particles of plastic averaging about a half-millimeter in size (the size of coffee grounds) are polluting local waters:

“We’ve seen this impact with photos of animals with their stomachs filled with plastics that are visible to the human eye. What we have not seen are pictures of the microscopic creatures at the bottom of the food chain and what plastics might be found in their bellies” said Peter Ross, a co-author of the survey and the director of Vancouver Aquarium’s new ocean pollution program.

“The micro-plastics are being ingested by crucial aquatic food source — plankton — and killing them. It fills up the stomach and they feel like they’ve got a belly full of food but they have no nutrition associated with that. It’s simply a bit of plastic,” said Ross.

“The highest concentrations of micro-plastics were found in Queen Charlotte Sound and the Southern Strait of Georgia. The scientists say the likely source of the tiny pollutants is waste water, particularly from the acrylic fibers of laundry machines.” (No mention of Tampon applicators but really?)

The question is what impact micro-plastic has on salmon and other fish that filter this water through their gills and survive on plankton. Plankton is food and importantly, breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out oxygen. Humans need it, so do the fish. Mother birds also mistakenly feeds their babies these colorful grains and die. Am I responsible for this?

The Tampon hasn’t changed much in decades because it’s nothing more than a simple and effective plug, it’s the applicator that has evolved and manages to ‘slide’ and ‘glide’ beneath the radar. Plastic is made from petro-chemicals (crude oil and natural gas).

Why is biodegradable a non issue when it comes to periods, because marketing has taken advantage of it’s lack of public discussion. We, the consumer, have been swallowed by the concept of desire and instilled with the need for luxury. Desire rules and without objection, we allow these greedy companies to fly off on a trajectory of flash, far surpassing our needs and in turn, negatively impacting the Earth. The warning bells are ringing but we’re not listening.

Billions of these single use, beautiful applicators are flushed away around the western world every day. They sail down the drain into the sewer pipes ending up south of Graham Ave. at the sewage treatment plant (at the river’s edge). They await separation in the settling ponds. That big old grinder then kicks into action and grinds those pretty little applicators into granules of plastic.

Particles small enough, flow into the Skeena River, the larger pieces are scooped up and transported to the dump were they await and wait degradation. Up to 500 years.

The Tampax cardboard model works, why wouldn’t you choose it? Our periods are influenced by the lunar cycle and that means a box of those beautiful ‘Radiant’ & ‘Fearless’ applicators multiplied by all the women in town and around the western world are getting flushed into the oceans every month.

Maybe the next time the power of the moon grips your body and you end up in the personal care aisle stop….pause…and think about it for a moment. Reach for the cardboard model. This small personal choice will eventually decompose leaving less worry for the Earth and serve your needs as equally well as its petro-chemical counterparts.

The added bonus: we will be a little less reliant on the gas and oil industry. When looking for ‘protection,’ think about it.

Jude Haydock,

Terrace, B.C.