A US gynecologist has issued a warning to women to not put sea sponges in their vaginas after a feminist brand started selling them as an “intuitive alternative” to tampons.
Dr Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN and New York Times columnist slammed the idea after someone tweeted a link to Holy Sponge’s ‘Ritual Menstruation Kit’ that is being sold by US retailer Otherwild.
Gunter posted to Twitter: “Anyone who tells you to put a sea sponge in your vagina wants you to grow more bacteria that causes toxic shock syndrome.
“This is horrific and illegal in the US to promote sponges for periods.”
According to the product description on Otherwild’s website, sea sponges offer “offer bleedin’ folks a gentle, nurturing, and intuitive alternative to bleached cotton tampons.”
The brand says they are not only a natural choice, but also more economical and better for the environment.
The menstruation kit includes “two sustainably-harvested sea sponges sourced by a female diver in Florida,” “organic tea tree oil to disinfect the sponges” at the end of each cycle, a cotton bag to store them between uses, and “hand-picked white sage or lavender” to use for smudging or a bath.
Gunter warned about the risks associated with seas sponges after one woman replied to her on Twitter saying she had heard sea sponges were safer.
Gunter stressed: “Sea sponges are not safer.
“I have quite a bit dedicated to tampon safety and the very small risks and the much greater risks of sea sponges in my book The Vagina Bible.”
Janeen Singer, the owner of Holy Sponges, posted an open letter to Gunter on Instagram, saying she swears by sea sponges.
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Dr. Jen Gunter @drjengunter Hi, my name is Janeen and I’ve been working with sea sponges for the last 8 years. I own the company that was linked to your tweets (Holy Sponge). I wanted to reach out to you privately, but since that isn’t possible, I am responding here. 4/30/19 Tweet: “Anyone who tells you to put a sea sponge in your vagina wants you to grow more bacteria that causes toxic shock syndrome. This is horrific and illegal in the US to promote sponges for periods." . When I first began using sponges, it changed my life. I spent over a year researching them and their history before I created the moon ritual kit. For me, it was a ritual to come back to my body after using tampons and being desensitized to my menstrual cycle (and there’s much more about this on my website). I would love to call this kit what it is- something for menstruation, but I don’t because the FDA doesn’t allow it. As far as I know, the caution against sponges as “harmful” medical devices traces back to the late 1970’s and 1980 when over 50 people died of TSS and hundreds more hospitalized- They all had one thing in common- the Tampax Rely tampon, which was full of synthetic ingredients. As a reaction, Procter and Gamble (the corporation that owns Tampax) sent the recalled tampons to Africa and then funded private research done by the University of Iowa Laboratory studying 12 sponges (were they sterilized & where did they come from?). The study concluded that sponges were “harmful medical devices” and Procter and Gamble maintained their monopoly on the femcare industry. A 39 year old study that is privately owned is what many people use to reference the safety of sea sponges. I’ve tried to access it through librarian and research friends, but no one has been able to get to it. Thousands of people have died and been hospitalized because of tampons, but those continue to go unregulated and the FDA does not require that their ingredients be listed. Vaginas are one of the most absorbent parts of the body, and most people are putting dioxins (known to cause reproductive and developmental cancers) and other synthetics into their bodies each time they use commercial (cont. in comments)
She wrote: “When I first began using sponges, it changed my life. I spent over a year researching them and their history before I created the moon ritual kit. For me, it was a ritual to come back to my body after using tampons and being desensitized to my menstrual cycle…I would love to call this kit what it is — something for menstruation, but I don’t because the FDA doesn’t allow it.’
Janeen also said, “thousands of people have died and been hospitalized because of tampons, but those continue to go unregulated and the FDA does not require that their ingredients be listed.”
Gunter argued they are “untested and potentially very unsafe” as well as “filled with dirt.”