Tampons could be a potential source of exposure to metals in menstruating women, a new study revealed.

Researchers have identified the presence of toxic metals, including arsenic and lead, in tampons, a menstrual hygiene product used by more than half of menstruating women.

This discovery emerged from an analysis of 30 tampons across 14 different brands, during which 16 metals were tested: arsenic, barium, calcium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, strontium, vanadium, and zinc.

According to the results of the study published in the journal Environment International, all the tampons tested contained measurable quantities of each metal, with only the concentrations differing among them.

"The metal concentrations varied by where the tampons were purchased (US vs. EU/UK), organic vs. non-organic, and store- vs. name-brand. However, they found that metals were present in all types of tampons; no category had consistently lower concentrations of all or most metals. Lead concentrations were higher in non-organic tampons but arsenic was higher in organic tampons," the news release stated.

While the precise impact of metal exposure from tampons remains unclear, the findings are concerning, as the skin of the vagina has a higher potential for chemical absorption than the rest of the body.

These metals are typically associated with a heightened risk of dementia, infertility, diabetes, and cancer. They can also damage the liver, kidneys, brain, and the cardiovascular, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as harm maternal health and fetal development.

"Despite this large potential for public health concern, very little research has been done to measure chemicals in tampons. To our knowledge, this is the first paper to measure metals in tampons. Concerningly, we found concentrations of all metals we tested for, including toxic metals like arsenic and lead," said lead author Jenni A. Shearston.

Metals could have reached tampons through the cotton, which may have absorbed them from water, air, soil, or nearby contaminants such as lead smelter. Additionally, some metals might have been intentionally added during the manufacturing process in the form of pigments, whiteners, and antibacterial agents.

"I really hope that manufacturers are required to test their products for metals, especially for toxic metals. It would be exciting to see the public call for this, or to ask for better labeling on tampons and other menstrual products," Shearston added.