Why is there a tampon shortage?

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A tampon shortage is weighing on consumers across the country, an outgrowth of the same forces roiling the global economy — from rising commodity and fuel costs to labor shortages and a contested supply chain — and experts say little relief is in sight.

Pharmacy aisles, group chats, and social media are awash with conversations about frustrated searches for period products, a need for half the population that’s nonetheless uncovered by government assistance and isn’t tax-exempt in most states. Tampon and pad prices have skyrocketed amid the crisis, at a moment when historic inflation is causing households to pay more for gas, groceries and other essentials.

Karyn Leit, chief executive officer of the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, said the New Jersey-based group, which feeds 600 homes monthly, also distributes menstrual products twice a month. In those weeks off, she’s had “clients come to me in tears and say they’re menstruating as we speak and if there’s anything I could do to help.”

She wishes more people would understand that menstruation “is a biological process” and that these products should be widely available. “When they’re not, it stops people from going about their day.”

Elise Joy, co-founder and executive director of Girls Helping Girls Period, said she saw the first signs of the shortage in the spring, when several agencies began asking if her group could supply them with menstrual products. By April, she was peppered with calls and emails from organizations that also donate tampons and pads to those who can’t afford them, asking them to fill gaps in supplies.

Joy hasn’t turned anyone away, but she’s not sure how long she can keep up. Even their corporate partners are struggling to keep up with demand.

“I can see stocks dwindling at the camp,” Joy told the Washington Post. “Right now we’re fine for the next few months given the supplies I have, but I don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen in the fall.”

Data on shortages is patchy, but shortages and inflation are reflected in price increases: The average cost of a pack of tampons has risen nearly 10 percent over the past year, while a pack of pads has risen 8.3 percent, according to data from NielsenIQ.

According to a recent study, product recalls have now reached a 10-year high report by Sedgwick Claims Management Services, with more than 900 million SKUs recalled in the first quarter of 2022.

A spokesman for CVS Health acknowledged that there have been times in recent weeks when suppliers have been unable to “fulfil the full order quantities” for feminine hygiene products in the last few weeks. Walgreens told The Post there were “some temporary brand-specific bottlenecks in certain regions.”

Procter & Gamble, the maker of Tampax, said it is working with retail partners to maximize the availability of feminine care products “which has increased significantly in recent months.”

“We understand it’s frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need,” Procter & Gamble told The Post. “We can assure you that this is a temporary situation.”

Not all brands are equally affected. Kimberly-Clark, the Irving, Texas-based consumer products giant and maker of U by Kotex tampons, told The Post that there had been “no product or supply shortages” in the United States and said it was “working closely with.” our joint retail partner to keep the shelves stocked.”

If manufacturers are now struggling to keep their products on shelves, this will only get worse as the year progresses and the peak season for shippers and retailers approaches, according to Vaughn Moore, chief executive of AIT Worldwide Logistics.

“Capacity will only get tighter towards the end of the year,” Moore said. “It’s a really challenging time.”

Consumers have faced product shortages throughout the coronavirus pandemic, whether it’s toilet paper and hand sanitizer, or cleaning wipes and baby food. It’s become “a new normal,” but one that consumers in the United States aren’t used to.

“We’re not used to getting belated gratification and not getting an immediate response to the things we need,” Moore said.

According to Nirav Patel, president and chief executive of , some of the inventory problems are due to the rising costs of cotton, rayon and plastic bristle cone, a supply chain logistics company. Demand for such commodities has been squeezed in recent years by the rush to manufacture medical staples during the pandemic, Patel noted, and now supply issues are posing problems for producers.

The cost of shipping consumer goods, for example, has nearly tripled, he noted, whether it’s the fee for shipping a shipping container overseas or for last-mile delivery. China’s zero-tolerance policy has contributed to port congestion and delivery delays at many major retailers, as has widespread labor shortages.

The shortage could lead to panic buying as retailers slowly restock their shelves, but that will only worsen and prolong the shortage, Patel warned.

Tampons are designed to be used once and then thrown away the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts also warn against trying to extend their usage as it can leave the user vulnerable to infections. Health authorities and manufacturers recommend changing them every four to eight hours.

The feminine hygiene industry is expected to be worth more than $54 billion by 2028, and the average user will pay about $1,800 over their lifetime using tampons or more than $4,750 for pads used research from 2021 by Pandia Health. Applicators and other menstrual product waste are major contributors to the plastic pollution that is choking the oceans.

For those who have trouble finding tampons in their area, menstrual cups are an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative, as are period underwear.

period of dignitya non-profit organization based in St. Louis, distributes washable, reusable pads to schools, pantries, libraries and other community partners across the country.

As tampon supplies have dwindled, Executive Director Angie Wiseman has noticed a surge in interest in Dignity Period’s reusable organic cotton pads. A $12.50 pack contains four, which should last the user 12 to 18 months assuming they are laundered according to directions. For comparison, a year’s supply of the most popular brands of tampons would range from $225 to $250.


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