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The Truth About Tampons

Fall 1998

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

The following information came to our attention here at Women Alive, and we thought we would pass it on to you, our readers.

Recently there has been much controversy regarding the presence of Dioxin, Rayon, and other harmful agents in feminine hygiene products, mainly tampons and sanitary napkins. Dioxin, which has been called one of the most toxic substances ever created by humans, is a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process used in the production of tampons and pads. Dioxin is potentially carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and is known to impair the immune and reproductive systems.

Swedish studies have shown a link between tampons containing dioxin, and other chlorine by-products, and an increased risk of cancers of the female reproductive tract (especially the uterus, ovaries and bladder).

Rayon itself poses another risk. Unknown to most women, rayon and rayon-cotton blend fibers are widely used in commercial feminine hygiene products. Rayon used to make tampons is usually treated with chemicals to increase the absorption capability.

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These super absorbent fibers then absorb not only the menstrual blood, but normal vaginal secretions as well, causing drying, and ulceration of vaginal tissues. The fibers can also become imbedded in the vaginal walls. Rayon fibers have been scientifically proven to amplify the production of Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin TSST1.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare bacterial illness that caused over 50 deaths between 1979 and 1980. Unlike medical grade cotton, upon which the TSS toxin will not grow, the rayon acts like a petri dish encouraging bacterial growth. What makes these toxic residues even more disturbing, is that they come in direct contact with some of the most absorbent tissue in a woman's body.

According to a doctor at New York University Medical Center, almost anything placed on this tissue, including Dioxin, gets absorbed into the body.

Why is it acceptable to have toxic substances in our feminine hygiene products? The tampon industry is convinced that women need bleached white products. They seem to think that we view this as "pure" and "clean." The fact is, if Dioxin puts women at risk for cancer and Dioxin is stored in fatty tissue (just like that found in the vagina), and a woman uses as many as 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, could the long term use of tampons increase cancer risk?

An FDA report said that "the most effective risk-management strategy would be to assure that tampons, and menstrual pads, contain no Dioxin." Although the FDA currently requires tampon manufacturers to monitor Dioxin levels, the results are not available to the public. The dioxin tests, are done by the manufacturers themselves, who insist their products are safe. Tampon manufacturers are not required to disclose ingredients to consumers, although many will do so voluntarily.

How much Dioxin exposure is considered safe for humans? Why has there been more research done on the possible health effects of chlorine-bleached coffee filters than on chlorine bleached tampons and related products? Women need to demand that more research be done on these issues. We have a right to know about any potential hazards associated with tampons and related products. It is only when women fully understand the consequences that we can make informed decisions regarding our health and well being.


Writer's note: Currently there are only a few non-chlorine bleached all cotton tampons available in the US. Ask about them at your local store, if they are not available, ask them to special order!


Back to the Women Alive Fall 1998 Contents Page.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!




  
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
 

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