If you’ve been using tampons every month for the last 10 years, you’re hoping this article talks about how harmless they are, right? Every month, you pick up a box of tampons, maybe some liners, to use and discard until your period is over. Tampons do what you want them to do: make the mess go away and allow you to have greater physical flexibility than pads. But what if tampons were created with harmful, even toxic chemicals that were absorbed by your body? There are quite a few rumors about this floating around the internet, so let’s hash this out once and for all.
“Tampons contain asbestos.” Both the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency regulate the use of asbestos, and it has been classified as a carcinogen. It is still used in certain building materials, like cement sheets and pipes, brake pads, roof coatings and more, but is banned for any materials affecting air quality or coming into contact with human skin. The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, caught wind of these rumors and addressed them by stating, “Asbestos is not an ingredient in any U.S. brand of tampon, nor is it associated with the fibers used in making tampons.”
“Tampons can cause toxic shock syndrome, or TSS.” No, they cannot cause TSS, but yes, they can set up the environment for potential TSS. The FDA issued an act under the Federal Code of Regulations stating, “Data show that toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but serious and sometimes fatal disease, is associated with the use of menstrual tampons.” The act requires all tampon production companies to include risks and symptoms of TSS on the packaging. Women under 30 years of age, especially teens, are more likely to contract TSS. The bigger picture shows the chance of getting TSS, though, is 17 out of 100,000 or 0.017 percent. If you are in the percentage, your chance of getting it again increases quite a bit.
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You can do a few things to protect yourself from TSS when it comes to tampons. First, change the tampon every four to six hours. Avoid using the super absorbency style and use something a bit smaller. Don’t wear the tampon overnight or insert more than one at a time. If the tampon is overly absorbant and leaves the vagina feeling dry, switch products. The dryness is the lack of your vagina’s protective mucus membrane, meaning the skin is much more susceptible to bacteria without it.
“Tampons have dioxin compounds from the bleaching process.” Part of the manufacturing process for tampons includes the bleaching of wood pulp. The chlorine-free method of bleaching uses chlorine dioxide, which, according to the FDA, can produce trace amounts of dioxins. These trace amounts are so negligible, the FDA also states, “...this method is considered to be dioxin free.”
So why are you supposed to care about dioxins anyway? They are toxic in large amounts and can cause cancer. Yet, the EPA states pretty much everyone has already been exposed to some level of dioxins. Even the all-cotton tampons (no rayon) contain these trace levels of dioxins. Click here to uncover the chemicals lurking in your deodorant.
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If you're more confused now than when you began reading this article, remember the key points from this discussion: tampon overuse can lead to TSS; manufacturing of tampons includes a bleaching process that yields trace amounts of cancer-causing compounds that allegedly, thus far, cannot cause harm; asbestos is highly regulated by the EPA and FDA, and does not appear in any tampon manufacturing processes. So, it sounds like tampons are safe if used properly. But if you're concerned about any of this information, experiment with pads and cups. If you want to learn more about the regulations on tampons, contact the FDA for resources.
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