the great tampon shortage

Written by: Team Fannie



Time to read 2 min

The severe shortage of baby food in the United States has not yet been solved, but American consumers already face a new problem: in many states, tampons have been hard to find for weeks; a series of supply chain issues has left tampon shelves virtually empty.

Dana Marlowe, the founder of I Support the Girls, which provides bras and menstrual hygiene for people experiencing homelessness, confirmed this phenomenon within her organisation with a big drop in tampon donations. 

Marlowe received about half as many tampons the first six months of this year compared to the same time last year. 

The American magazine Time published an article two weeks ago about the deficit, which has been increasing in recent months. The leading tampon manufacturer in the United States, Procter & Gamble, initially blamed the problem on commercials starring comedienne Amy Schumer. Because of those commercials, the popularity of their brand Tampax increased considerably.

However, that does not explain why other tampon brands are often sold out, Time wrote. It is now clear that Procter & Gamble, which makes half of all tampons sold in the US, is struggling with major supply chain problems.

Expensive cotton, no staff

The company recently informed shareholders that it is difficult to obtain materials to make tampons. These include cotton, rayon (viscose) and plastic for packaging - raw materials that almost all have to come from Asia and Europe. Shipping these raw materials is currently expensive and time-consuming due to a shortage of sea containers and port employees. In the US itself, there is also a major shortage of truck drivers to supply stores.

Edgewell, another major tampon manufacturer in the US, says in US media that it has a staff shortage at the factory that makes ob tampons. More workers are not readily available: Under US law, tampons are a medical product and therefore only specifically trained employees are allowed to work in the factory.

Drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens confirmed to the New York Times earlier this month that they have tampon shortages in their stores. Procter & Gamble told the newspaper that the shortages are only "temporary", but could not say how long women will stand in front of almost empty shelves. Some media report that customers are now hoarding tampons.

Due to the scarcity and the increasing prices for raw materials, tampons in the US are now about 10 percent more expensive than a year ago, says market researcher NielsenIQ. US Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan has written a letter calling on manufacturers not to charge extortionate prices for tampons and to solve the shortages as soon as possible.

Desperate times call for (not so) desperate measures

Thankfully there are safe alternatives to tampon such as: pads, menstrual cups and period underwear, you might actually want to replace your tampons for good with these alternatives. Here's why: 

  • In the United States, tampons are categorised as “medical devices” by the government. This means that the ingredients of this product don't need to be listed anywhere on the product or fully disclosed by the brands that sell them.
  • The ingredients can be quite harmful; the bestselling tampons in the drug stores are made of chemicals, pesticides and other toxins. 
  • You catch the risk of an infection when you don't use the tampon properly; your vagina is like a sponge, it will absorb pretty much anything that you put in there, if you end up leaving your tampon up there for too long you it can result into yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, TSS or another type of infection. 
  • And to top it off, periods have a huge impact on the environment. It is because of the products (often cotton-based which takes a lot of water to grow) and because of how we dispose them; these popular commercial products are often disposables and for single use, so imagine the amount of waste this involves. 

Do your own research, but take into consideration some of these alternatives; not only will is it safer to use, it will also spare you some money and do the environment good.