Tampons have develop into the most recent family product to fall foul of supply chain points.
Stories of a scarcity of the menstrual product, utilized by tens of millions of ladies within the U.S., have mixed with basic inflationary strain on the value of products to create value and entry boundaries.
The Dialog requested Marni Sommer, an expert on public health and menstruation at Columbia College, what was making the present scarcity and the way it has affected the plight of low-income girls and adolescent ladies who might already face boundaries to enough, high-quality menstrual merchandise.
What’s behind the tampon scarcity?
There are a few issues at play right here. First off, it seems tampons are one other casualty of the supply chain problems which have been round for the reason that starting of the pandemic. However this has been compounded by a specific problem with the rising price of raw materials utilized in tampons: cotton, rayon and plastic.
In the meantime, the influence of inflation has hit menstrual merchandise usually, and tampons specifically. Inflation trackers say the value of tampons has surged nearly 10% over the past yr.
Does the scarcity influence some girls greater than others?
It’s a good query. Sadly, nobody has studied how the present scarcity is affecting totally different girls – it’s simply too quickly. However we’re listening to from organizations that assist girls who historically have issue accessing menstrual merchandise, corresponding to these experiencing homelessness and lower-income girls, that it’s immediately affecting them.
The scarcity might have an effect on girls who use tampons extra so than different menstrual merchandise, corresponding to pads or menstrual cups. And ladies who expertise heavier bleeding shall be hit tougher by the rising prices as they could want extra tampons for every menstrual cycle.
Clearly, probably the most affected shall be girls who merely can’t afford the bounce in costs. The scarcity, alongside of the influence of inflation, will probably exacerbate what is named “period poverty.”
What’s interval poverty and who does it have an effect on?
Interval poverty is the lack to entry enough, high quality menstrual merchandise. And even earlier than the current value will increase, many ladies within the U.S. had been affected by interval poverty. Sadly, we don’t have rigorous knowledge on the extent or scale of interval poverty throughout the nation.
However a study I conducted in 2021 with colleagues on the CUNY College of Public Well being discovered that the pandemic exacerbated the issue of interval poverty. Lack of revenue on account of the financial fallout of the pandemic was a strong predictor of menstrual product insecurity, particularly for girls already on low incomes or with decrease formal schooling. Respondents to our survey indicated elevated challenges when it got here to accessing menstrual merchandise.
What’s the influence of interval poverty on girls’s lives?
There isn’t numerous knowledge on interval poverty on this nation – we’ve got solely actually began speaking about it in recent times. It isn’t a topic that, historically, girls have felt comfortable talking about.
Alongside the monetary burden, there’s importantly the continuing stigma and stress for women who’re unable to entry or afford menstrual merchandise. Menstrual product insecurity can have an effect on a girl’s confidence to go about her every day life and create anxiousness.
One other factor we present in our research taking a look at how the current pandemic affected entry to menstrual merchandise was that ladies described utilizing varied coping mechanisms when not capable of afford or entry them. This included, for instance, utilizing diapers, socks and fabric instead of menstrual merchandise corresponding to pads and tampons. That is occurring now in America, however many ladies are embarrassed to speak about it.
Interval poverty and the tampon scarcity can also imply that ladies are having to make use of inferior merchandise. Sure, you may have the ability to get cheaper tampons on the greenback retailer, however they won’t work as nicely, and utilizing lower-quality merchandise may imply a girl has to purchase much more of them.
This high quality problem got here up in a study I used to be concerned with taking a look at populations experiencing homelessness. Respondents complained that the merchandise out there in shelters or at service suppliers, oftentimes the outcomes of donations, weren’t of a top quality. Others have described comparable product high quality challenges for individuals who are incarcerated.
What are the alternate options for girls amid the tampon scarcity?
There are a selection of different merchandise in the marketplace – certainly, one factor I came upon in a research of adolescent ladies and menstruation was how overwhelmed they felt by the numerous choices out there to them.
Our understanding is that many extra girls use pads than tampons. Then you’ve menstrual cups, which have been round for many years however have seen a resurgence in recent times. They’re environmentally pleasant, however not each girl is comfy with the concept of inserting cups, and the upfront prices might be larger.
Period underwear manufactured from absorbent supplies is a more moderen product that some girls use. However for girls who’re used to tampons however are discovering them tough to entry, pads will be the best substitute.