How Organic Tampons Can Help Women Live Healthier Lives

October 6th 2017

Hosted by Kimberly King with guest, Margo Lang, from Conscious Period (consciousperiod.com). In this edition of the Mother's Market Radio show, Margo joins Kimberly King to talk about organic tampons and their health benefits. Also, she'll cover the background of the product space as well as some of the challenges feminine care products have had in getting to market.

The advice and informational content does not necessarily represent the views of mother's market and kitchen, mother's recommends consulting your health professional for your personal medical condition. henniker King and welcome to the mother's market radio show, a show dedicated to the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of the human condition. On today's show, it's something many of us women don't think about, that natural time of the month has a new natural innovation that's organic tampons, and they can help you feel better about what you're putting in your body. So listen close.

Plus later will tell you what's new at mother's market and what's going on around town. But first up, Margo Lang is the co-founder of Conscious Period, a company that specializes in organic tampons. Margo has an MBA with a certificate in sustainability and business from USC and has a background in marketing with the non-profit retail and technology industries, and we welcome her to the mother's market radio show. How are you? I'm great, thank you so much for having me. Such a pleasure to be here, thank you. It's nice to have you.

Why don't you fill our audience a little bit in on your mission and work before we get to the show's topic.

Great, so conscious period is an organic tampon company, as you mentioned, and we have a giving model to help provide products as well as employment opportunities to women who are living in homelessness right here in the United States. So that's kind of... We're providing really healthy eco-conscious, socially conscious products to women all over the country.

Wonderful. Well, today we're talking about the real food movement as it relates to kombucha and Margo tampons.

Let's talk about them. And many consumers are familiar with the importance of choosing organic foods and natural house cleaners, but tell us why it's important to be choosing organic feminine hygiene products.

So first of all, what most people don't know is that the FDA actually classifies tampons as medical devices, and so as a result, companies are not required to label the ingredients that are in their products, so as consumers, we have no idea what we're putting into our bodies, for 50000 hours over the course of our lives, which is pretty absurd, if you think about it, well, when people don't know, you look at a tampon, you think, Oh, it's a white ball of fluffy stuff... It's probably cotton. It's actually most of the time not is they're made of synthetic fibers, they have fragrances, dies, bleach, and the little bit of cotton that is involved in the product is 85% of the disparate with glyphosate, which is definitively carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization.

So there are a lot of challenges here, a lot of ingredient labeling and transparency issues in the market that people just really aren't aware of, so choosing that organic cotton product is by far the safest and healthiest for your body.

Wow. Really, and you're right, the average consumer has no idea and growing up... Exactly.

Wow, I think that's fascinating. What are some of the effects of these ingredients on the body?

So this is another one of those nuances in the space that they're just as such limited research that it's actually really hard to say what the actual effects are, they didn't even really start researching over the NIH anyways, didn't really start researching the impact until 1992, which really wasn't that long ago, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has been trying to bring the robin Daniels and act to the floor eight times, and every time the bill has been shot down by a male-dominated Congress, and so there's really sort of these players in the market that have been trying to create research and trying to really measure these long-term effects of them care in the relationship to women's bodies, and it's just not happening, but the tissue in your vaginal canal is some of the most poorest and most absorbing in your body, so why would you risk it, why would you put something into your body that we really don't know what the effects are, when you have other options, and there's all kinds of evidence and suggestions that synthetic materials are what's responsible for toxic shock syndrome. Or that they are endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxins involved in these, but there just isn't really good non-bias, peer-reviewed research to indicate definitively what the issues are, but in our opinion, it's not worth the risk.

Absolutely, there's also an environmental component as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Absolutely, so organic cotton is by far the most sort of environmentally sustainable material to use for tampons, it bodegas, and is superior to conventional cotton in the way that it is created, and then in the chemicals that are used in order to pesticide or besides or whatever. All those chemicals that they put on conventional co-aren't obviously sprayed on to organic cotton, and so the environmental effects are very relevant here in organic cotton is definitively, so the best option when you compare it to both the synthetic fibers as well as conventional cotton from an environmental perspective. I think this is so fascinating. We were talking a little bit earlier, You're so young, you were talking about both of your parents are doctors, and how did all of this prompt you to start your own company?

You know, both Annie and I, my co-founder, we were really concerned with the ingredients in our products, and we just hadn't found a good option that really met our needs or met them needs of our friends, organic tampons have existed for a long time, but they're expensive they're hard to find, and most people just don't enjoy the user experience of them... A lot has to do with the app. Later, 76% of the market prefers plastic and most organic tampons in to this point have only had a cardboard applicator or a digital applicator... No applicator at all, and so women just weren't buying them, they weren't willing to sacrifice their comfort for their health, and so we really wanted to bring an option to market that was going to accomplish that, that women could feel really comfortable having that... For us, a BPA-free plastic applicator, but with the sort of benefits from a health perspective of a 100% organic cotton tampon as well as the environmental benefits of it, being able to buy or to grade... Good for you. Besides the ingredients, what are some of the other big issues in the feminine hygiene industry that some of our listeners might be aware of or might not be aware of... Yeah, absolutely, so one of the biggest issues in this space is actually accessibility and affordability of these products, again, another thing that many people don't know is that government assistance programs like food stamps don't cover period products, so if you're a woman living below the poverty line, you have no access to these products with the government assistance that's being afforded to you, so you either have to come up with the money to buy it yourself or sell your food stamps, which is illegal, and so that gets women into a very precarious tricky situation. They're often having to sort of DIY the products themselves using rags or socks or paper towels, and all of that often isn't the most sanitary way to do things, which can lead to infection and a host of other problems. And that just seems abominable in this day and age in this country, and additionally in 37 states, tampons are taxed as luxury items in quotations, non-necessary goods, which is also ridiculous because as any woman listening to this nose, getting a period is absolutely not a... ITunes, just gonna say, who would think of that? Right, absolutely. And then, so one thing that we're really working on in one of the big issues in this industry is getting product into the hands of people who need it and don't have access to it, because shelters just don't have enough... If you talk to shelters across the country, they'll tell you that pad specifically are one of the most highly requested and least donated items, people just don't think about it because we don't talk about it.

It's true, I was just gonna say that people really don't think about that, and it's true, it's just one of those taboo or not... Maybe it is not taboo, it's just that people don't talk about it, it's absolutely taboo, and that's one thing in the space that is exciting to see some of this conversation is starting to de-stigmatize these issues, but it's huge, and so making sure that shelters have a consistent stream of product. Another issue in the space is that people maybe donate a bunch of it, and then these organizations don't know and they're gonna get more, so there's this kind of supply and demand unpredictability problem, and so that's another sort of issue that people just don't think about.

Good for you, for bringing this out into the public awareness, how can people help fix these issues in their own communities... I mean, you are doing your part.

How can we do our part? Absolutely, there are a lot of different ways, I think, sort of on a very local level, asking your shelters what they need, and maybe for some reason it's not pads and tampons, but it probably is... So donating those items when you make donations to local charitable organizations, if you're a student and you're trying to think about some kind of fundraiser or a community service project in your school doing a feminine care products to drive... Maybe even thinking as far as incontinence products, it's another issue that doesn't get talked about a whole lot, and so thinking outside the box a little bit, thinking past sort of the traditional products to give to local organizations, because they are most often the experts at getting it into the hands of people that need it most. That's kind of what we've learned as far as the distribution of it, but also thinking about it on a more broad policy level and calling your representatives, we're in a moment in time where people are activated and people are really ready to mobilize. And this is one of those issues that by calling your representative, especially if you live in a state where there is still a tampon tax, and really having that conversation engaging with them and putting a little bit of pressure as a citizen on them to introduce these issues and do what we can to abolish the tampon tax in every state across the nation. It's hugely important.

No, and I love that, that you are lighting the fire and that it is right. It is the time, and especially again, I think the other thing too, is that the millennials are this... You're younger, I think maybe it's at a time that are... The people that are a little older than if they didn't talk about it in the day, now you're talking about it, you're getting it out there, so... Thank you for lighting that fire.

Can you explain what the legislation is that you mentioned before, can you talk a little bit about that legislation?

Sure, so specifically the tampon tax legislation is... It's a state issue, so state by state, we can't repeal it on a federal level, and so again, being really aware of where your state stands is important. Last year, New York, Connecticut and Illinois all abolished the tampon tax, which was very important in sort of leading the way for a lot of other states, because now California, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Vermont, Virginia in Washington are all working on abolishing the tampon tax, which is really amazing but kind of really doing that research and knowing where your State stands, so just to sort of explain the tampon tax, to take that step back and explain exactly what we're talking about here, it's not an extra tax, and I think that there's often times some confusion there it really is a sales tax, but the way that tampons are taxed is as a non-necessary good, that's where we kinda get this word of luxury, but the reason why people are sort of up in arms about this is because other products like Rogan or soda or candy are not taxed in that same fashion, and so candy is very clearly less necessary than pads and tampons aren't... Right in the dichotomy and all of this isn't that... Exactly, and there are definitely differences in different states, so again, doing a bit of research about what the nuances of your state's regulations are is definitely important, but that's kind of what we're talking about here is sort of, is the bias against female or feminine care products as far as they are a tax in relation to other items... Right, yeah, I would... Well, I'm not gonna say it, but it's what's for a man to have to go be a woman for a week and to deal with them to the menstrual farewell actually are... Totally right, right.

But there was a YouTube or angered Nelson who went and spoke with President Obama, and she had this sort of opportunity through a partnership between the White House and YouTube and asked him about the tampon tax, and she asked why it existed, and he said that... First of all, he didn't know that it existed, so she just... She sort of educated about him about it, but also he said that when she asked why, he said, because men write the laws, and our president at the time was very candid and very open and very clear that Michelle would not be happy about this, and... Thank you for being transparent about it really, and I personally, I really appreciated that, and I think the community at large it as well.

Well, I appreciate you being here and it's so very interesting, this information right now we have to take a quick break, but more in just a moment. So don't go away, we'll be right back.

And welcome back to the mother's market radio show. And we wanna remind you that if you've missed any portion of today's show, you can find us on iTunes by searching mother's market or download the show from our website, mothers market dot com, click the link for radio and listen to the past shows. Plus download our Healthy Recipes and money savings coupons, all available at mother's market dot com. And now, back to our interview with Conscious Period co-founder Margo Lang, and so very interesting, we're talking about organic tampons, and so Margo, we talked a little bit about the legislation across the nation, but specifically, can you talk more about what's happening right here in California? Sure, so there was a tampon tax bill brought to the California congress to vote on last year, and it passed... Bipartisan legislation passed unanimously.

The bill was brought to Jerry Brown's desk in order for him to approve it and he vetoed it, and so it was a pretty disappointing moment last year, especially kind of on the skirts of some other states having passed his legislation ahead of us.

And so the skill is being brought back to the floor by assembly woman Christina Garcia right now, a B-9 and AB 10 if you're interested in kind of looking into it.

Thank you. And this legislation will sort of hopefully be able to make it to way back to Jerry Brown's desk, and we're really sort of encouraging people as is her office to call him, to have that conversation with him again, really encourage him to maybe pay a bit more attention to it, or hopefully not. veto at this time around. So that's kind of the landscape of what's happening right? Here in California. AB 9 and AB 10 crack.

Okay, so something to look forward to into the future. Look for that.

It's interesting, and again, this is the tampon tax legislation.

Why do you think that the organic Tomar market is going to more mainstream now, this is something we've been talking about, and again, it is... It's going more mainstream. Why?

Absolutely, I think that people are really starting to pay attention to everything that they're putting on their bodies, in their bodies, near their bodies around their children, and it's sort of becoming this part of the vernacular in a way that it never has been before in the organic food movement took a minute to take off as well, but now everyone's familiar with organic food and people that have the disposable income to buy it, definitely prioritize it in the marketplace, and so I think that kind of awareness is shifting, it's not just food anymore, it's all these other products and tampons and feminine care products in general, are definitely sort of a part of that conversation, and people understand both what organic mean and what cotton means at this point, and I think that that's kind of... When you sort of get into nuances of new materials or things that people don't totally understand the vocabulary around, it takes a little bit longer to educate people, and not to say that this space doesn't need education because it absolutely does. But we kind of have this almost of an advantage that people kind of understand those two main components of what's so important about organic cotton feminine care products. So I think that those things sort of put together have kind of really sort of pushed this into the mainstream, it's kind of an extension of existing trends, but also the millennial market itself, having more disposable income, so for so long we would see all this market research about how millennials care about environmentally friendly products and socially responsible products, but at the end of the day, they weren't sort of putting their money where their mouth was, but as that consumer has aged by a few years and tends to have a bit more disposable income, they are starting to put their money where their mouth is, which is really exciting for I think probably every brand in this space, seeing that trend in sort of being a part of it and allowing these companies to grow as a result is something that's really exciting and that consumer does so much more research, that consumer care, so much more about health and wellness is kind of a daily interaction, and so I think that that consumer is really driving this category forward and educating younger people as well as their parents about it.

That is really exciting and I'm sorry, and that's exactly what I was trying to pinpoint earlier is really the millennials have changed the way marketing advertising, everything, because it's also the way millennials communicate and it's changed the way... Everything has really changed that trend, so I think you're right, it's really exciting, just the way that millennials communicate, where are some of the exciting developments that you've seen in this industry? I do wanna go back because of one thing about with the fem care market, do you see anything with the advancement with where breast cancer started and with say You've talked freely about vagina with tampons and everything, but with the movement with breast cancer and with women talking about breasts and everything, do you see kind of a movement in a transition with that all of a sudden being open, talking openly about... Absolutely, it is incredible to see how many people want to talk about their periods, won't to talk about these products, want to have this conversation to feel less alone, to ask questions and have them answered in an approachable and compassionate way that isn't filled with stigma and judgement and taboo.

And I think that this industry was so sort of hidden for so long, in 2015, they were sort of calling the year of the period...

I think NPR dubbed it the year of the period 2015, as did the New York Times. Yeah, and it kind of rolled into 2016, but all of a sudden there was just sort of this wave around the conversation of periods and period products and these social issues that surround it, and the tampon tax in really came to light.

So all of a sudden people were starting to talk about this in a way that had never happened for Newsweek did a cover story on of the taboos in this space, which was pretty unheard of, and so that was something that this conversation was sort of brewing under the surface for so long and now people are really starting to be heard, and we get emails literally every single day from young girls and older women sharing their stories with us, thanking us for bringing this sort of conversation to light in the way that we decided to tackle it, that there are so many in the space that have been revolutionary in terms of this conversation, we got an email from a 12-year-old in the UK who was so excited to start talking about her period, she wanted to know what she could put on social media, and I was... Or something she could share with her friends, and at the end of the email, she said, I haven't gotten my period yet, but I want to share this with all of my friends because some of them have, and it's so different than I think it ever has been before, in that wave of mobilization and activism and pushing people to sort of have that conversation in the way that makes them feel most comfortable, not everyone is comfortable talking about it, and that's okay too, is something that's really exciting, and we've been involved in some pieces of content that have gone viral, so to speak, we did a video with BuzzFeed lady like in December, I believe, that got a million views in 24 hours and thousands of comments of people sharing their stories and telling us about their experiences and... Sort of moments like that. We know that this matters to people, and we know that this conversation is something that people wanna talk about, that's exciting, and thank you for sharing about how that has shifted in what you're doing and what kind of stories... Because again, it was sort of a taboo when kids... And I remember actually why I have a teenage daughter, and I remember with her girl scout troop, one of the leaders is a pediatrician, and she sat down with the Girl Scout troop and she said, This is what happens, and I thought was brilliant to sit down with all of the girls as they're approaching women, womanhood, yeates, they all felt a little bit comfortable 'cause they all had their sisters with them, and just to describe, this is how you... This is what happens together, and it was a little bit less daunting rather than... When I grew up in was I was alone sort of, I don't have any sisters, but I remember it was sort of a taboo subject, so I felt a little bit alone. But rather than my daughter now with her girlfriends and her girl scout troop, it was a much better platform, I should say, and it's particularly hard, you know, for a single dads to have this conversation with their daughters or for women who are living in... Or lower income situations, being able to sort of get what they need for their daughters to make them feel most comfortable. That's something that we talk about a lot. How do we have that conversation in a way that then girls feel comfortable going to whoever it is that is supportive of them or going to somebody else, if that's kind of what makes sense for them, but the more we can open up this conversation, the where we can make everybody feel comfortable talking about it, especially men to a certain extent, it, the better off we're gonna be, and we're definitely seeing that people are eager to have that conversation more and more... What's next for the menstrual revolution?

That's a great question. I think three main things innovation, I think that we've been talking about some very specific products that haven't seen a lot of change for a very long time, and not every woman is the same, not every community is the same culturally, and we as women deserve nuances and product that fit our needs.

And I think that as more women come into the space, as more women like Annie and I are starting, companies are entering the product development space, are in control of the messaging and the marketing and the branding around these products, we're going to start to see that level of nuance, we're gonna start to see more diversity and more differentiation in the marketplace, which it's been begging for for five decades, and no one has really tackled in a super successful mainstream kind of way.

I think another thing that we're gonna see is research, like I said before, it is so incredibly limited, frightening-ly, so... And more and more people are starting to pay attention to it because it got the media's attention, we talk to doctors kind off the record all the time about are they doing research in this space, what does it look like, what are... Some of them are just sort of observations or the trends that we're seeing, and it's clear that we're on to something, and the way that this market is moving is on to something, but again, we need that research in order to be definitive with the conversations that we have about the health effects. And that's something that I think we're starting to see sort of brewing below the surface and we're gonna see more of... And lastly, de-stigmatization, I think that this is such a natural bodily function that happens to over half the population at some point in their life or 35 years, it's not something to be ashamed of, it's not something to be afraid of, but that's just not how it's approach, and I think that it's more conversations sort of push the envelope, and the way that we're really trying to... The more that this is going to be less taboo and less stigmatized, and everyone's gonna be sort of happier for it.

Excellent, well, that's very exciting and congratulations, thank you.

Thank you so much for your time and some great advice, and we really appreciate your knowledge and we look forward to having you on again in the future, but in the meantime, get more information on Margolin on her website, it's Conscious Period dot com, and we look forward to your next visit, thank you so much, thank you so much for having the... Thanks for listening to the mother's market radio show. And for shopping at mother's market, the advice and informational content does not necessarily represent the views of mother's market and kitchen, mother's recommends consulting your health professional for your personal medical condition