Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Menstrual Cup Dangers: Is There Lead or Cadmium in My Menstrual Cup?

menstrual cup dangers - lead, cadmium and heavy metals in lena cup
This week, Tamara, The Lead Safe Mama broke the internet again! This time it was over menstrual cups. People have been asking us to test their Diva Cups, LENA menstrual cups, Lunette cups and more for lead, cadmium and other heavy metals for the last six months or so. This month, while doing a healthy homes visit, she had a chance to test two different menstrual cups from LENA.

UPDATE: At the original point of publish only two LENA cups had been tested. A Diva cup has also been tested and this article has been updated on 2/13/18 to reflect the most current information and test results available.

LENA menstrual cups and cadmium

The instrument that Tamara uses to test items for heavy metals is a non-radioactive source XL3T xray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) from Thermo Fisher Scientific. It tests for precise amount of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc with accuracy in the single digit parts-per-million (PPM). This instrument is the industry standard for field testing and is what the Consumer Product Safety Commission uses to test for heavy metal contamination.

She was able to use this instrument to test two different LENA menstrual cups. Here are the results of the two LENA cups she tested with referral links showing the type of cups tested.
This pink LENA menstrual cup tested positive for cadmium at 22 PPM +/-7. It did not detect any lead, arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals.

This blue LENA menstrual cup tested positive for cadmium at 19 PPM +/-7. It did not detect any lead, arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals.

Diva Cup and cadmium

When this article was originally published, we only had test results from two different LENA cups. On February 7th, 2018, Tamara was able to test a used (but clean!) Diva Cup. The cup she tested, tested positive for cadmium at 17 PPM +/-4. While this is slightly less cadmium that seen in the test results for the LENA cups, and lower than the strictest regulatory standards for toys (40 PPM for cadmium) - both Tamara and I are concerned that this much cadmium is present at all in an item intended to be inside your body for such an extended period of time - especially so close to such a vital feminine organ.

I have personally been a dedicated Diva Cup user for almost eight years now and am pretty disappointed about these results. I am temporarily switching to Natracare organic tampons for now while we continue this investigation into heavy metals in silicone menstrual cups

Why is there cadmium in my menstrual cup?

When cadmium is present in small amounts (under 40 PPM or so), it is not because it was added to the silicone mix on purpose. It most likely piggybacked in with the raw materials used to make the silicone or the pigment used to color the silicone. Neither LENA nor Diva Cup are intentionally putting cadmium in their menstrual cups.

What is a safe amount of cadmium to have in silicone?

This question is trickier. In the United States (where both Creative Green Living and Lead Safe Mama are based), the most stringent standards for heavy metals in items are reflected in legal standards for heavy metals in toys. As far as I am aware, there is no heavy metal standards for lead in medical grade silicone but I did call the FDA this morning to ask about it and am still waiting for a call back about it. I will update the information in this post if I discover more information about that.

We (Tamara and myself) generally consider 40 PPM cadmium the "level of concern" for cadmium in items like dishes, mugs, toys, etc but some women have expressed concern regarding cadmium in an item placed so close to your uterus - and we don't disagree with them. I know for myself personally, I want a menstrual cup that can prove it has ZERO lead, cadmium or other heavy metals in the silicone.

LENA's response to finding cadmium in their menstrual cups.

After seeing the post Tamara put up on Lead Safe Mama's facebook page, several readers contacted LENA and this was the response posted on the Lead Safe Mama page:
Menstrual cup dangers, cadmium in menstrual cups
Wait. What?

Let's break this down:

"An unofficial facebook page": Lead Safe Mama is, indeed an official facebook page for the website run by Tamara Rubin. Tamara is also the director and producer of the feature length documentary, MisLEAD: America's Secret Epidemic. She is a trained and certified XRF operator and is widely regarded as the foremost expert on lead in consumer goods in the USA.

"elevated levels of cadmium": Anything under 40 PPM cadmium is actually considered "trace levels of cadmium." Concerning? Yes. Elevated? No. (also, nowhere did Tamara state there was an "elevated level of cadmium" in the cups - that is LENA's language).

"No toxicity present from cadmium..." I don't doubt their testing showed no toxicity present. I will say that I as a consumer, though, that I have a strong preference for a cadmium free product rather than "no toxicity from cadmium" or "does not leach cadmium" product.

"We are consulting our attorneys": I will be really curious what the attorneys say. Tamara made no inflammatory claims or even any claims about toxicity. She simply stated what the PPM of cadmium found in the cup she tested was. I'm not sure how you can argue with that! 

What should LENA do?

From a consumer and a non-toxic living advocate perspective, this is what I think LENA needs to do:


LENA needs to listen to what their customers are saying. 

The customers that just contacted them concerned about cadmium? They are telling them what they want. They want cadmium free menstrual products. Not products that are "good enough." Not products that don't show any leaching when brand new. Products that are CADMIUM FREE.

Many of these consumers chose to opt out of tampons to avoid glyphosate and all the other toxic crap that came with them. They don't want their next choice to contain any heavy metals. They don't care that the testing showed the heavy metals to be "unconcerning" because when it comes to items we put next to our baby factories, trace amounts matter.

What about other menstrual cups?

Since the news about cadmium in LENA menstrual cups broke, people have been asking if Tamara could test THEIR preferred brand of menstrual cup. Tamara has said she would - she just needs the cups!
menstrual cup dangers - is there lead or cadmium in menstrual cups like lunette, lena, diva or other softcups

Generally, she asks people to send in items for testing but since some menstrual cups can cost as much as $50, she has decided the most fair thing would be to ask for donations that she can use to go out and purchase a lot of menstrual cups all at once and then test them. That way is multiple people want to see a Diva cup tested, one person isn't on the hook for $25 - we can pool our resources and take care of it together.  If you are interested in having your preferred brand of menstrual cup tested, please send a donation of $15 or more to Lead Safe Mama and leave in the comments, the name of your preferred brand of menstrual cup for testing. 

Prior to publication, I contacted both the FDA and LENA but had not yet heard back from either. I will keep this post updated with relevant information available from either party.

About the Author:

Carissa is a green lifestyle advocate and mom of two active boys. The owner and lead writer for Creative Green Living, she is also the author of several e-books as well as the hardcover cookbook, Beautiful Smoothie Bowls (Skyhorse, 2017). Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects and healthier choices that are beautiful and delicious! Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter or join the Creative Green Living community group.
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Carissa's Creativity Space (creativecarissa.com) became Creative Green Living in February 2013. As such the watermarks on many of our old posts may reflect the previous site name.