When the time came to finally take action and use a tampon, the experience was nothing short of horrifying and extremely confusing. If having your period was not enough of a shock, you had to figure out how to use one of these things with hope that it would actually come back out! But the real anxiety came when you carefully read the instructions (being the good students we are) only to find the following warning:
A Fatal Disease!?? And here we just thought we were avoiding the embarrassment and pain of using a pad so that we could actually face our fellow classmates without fear of a diaper butt or new-found red skirt!
So what exactly did you do about it? If you were like me, you read the warning, pondered over the risk and based on the fact that you didn’t actually know of anyone personally who actually contracted TSS, you continued on your way constantly pushing your fears to the wayside… (besides, did we know there was another choice?)
Now after many years of using conventional tampons, it becomes glaringly clear that our intuition was right all along. Not just because there is an actual risk of developing TSS, but because there are actually more side effects as well. Let’s learn all about toxic tampons.
The Health Consequences of Toxic Tampons
Of all the personal hygiene products, the tampon raises the most important health issues because it sits for hours surrounded by some of the female body’s most porous membranes. “The vagina absorbs quite readily,” says Dr. Philip M. Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center. “When you put a chemical substance in the vagina, it’s in the bloodstream a half hour later.” Therefore, anything that is placed within its walls will readily be absorbed by the body creating a similar effect of actually consuming the product orally. This is not good.
I Thought Tampons were Made of Just Cotton, Right?
This is the false assumption that most people make about their tampons and the truth is that actually very few are made of just cotton, let alone organic cotton. This is precisely the problem.
Rayon is a synthetic fiber made from wood pulp, and is typically a main component of conventional tampons that requires hundreds of chemicals for its production. While it is more absorbent than cotton, it has been shown to increase your risk of TSS, therefore making it not worth the risk . “Rayon provides a perfect chemical condition for the production of staph [Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium usually responsible for TSS],” says Tierno. And he asserts that not one case of TSS has resulted from a 100 percent cotton tampon.
Rayon fibers have also been known to be left behind in the vaginal tissue, which can potentially damage the area leading to ulcerations and the peeling of the mucus membranes. This not only increases your risk of TSS but also increases your risk of vaginitis, UTI’s, yeast infections and even STDs.
Most major brands of tampons and menstrual pads, such as Playtex, O.B., Tampax and others, use a chlorine bleaching process to whiten their products. This process results in the production of dioxin—a type of “organochlorine” as is DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange—that is linked to cancer, especially breast cancer, immune system suppression, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and low sperm count. While the EPA does not site a safe level of Dioxin, the real risk comes from accumulated toxicity. Dioxins are known to bioaccumulate and can remain in the body for 20-30 years. Therefore, every time you use a tampon, the toxins continue to build up in the vaginal tissue, which happens to be one of the most absorbent tissues in the body.
Cotton, which is the main ingredient of tampons, is a mass-produced industrial crop that is highly sprayed with pesticides. Approximately “84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of conventional cotton grown each year in the US… These chemicals are some of the most toxic used in agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency has declared them to be ʻpossibleʼ, ʻlikelyʼ, ʻprobableʼ, or ʻknownʼ human carcinogens.” Therefore, just like we do not want to breathe these chemicals, eat these chemicals or bathe in the chemicals, we must not place them inside us either.
We all remember the joke in school about girls smelling like tuna fish, which has undoubtably led to a mass insecurity that drives women to reach for the tampons with fragrance. Unfortunately this little rumor has not only hurt women’s self-esteem, but also their health as well. Fragrances used in personal care products are actually made with synthetic chemicals, not the proposed crushed roses and spring water. These fragrance chemicals are known to be neurotoxins and immune system toxicants, which have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. In my opinion, certainly not worth the risk.
What’s Next? Are we Doomed to Use Pads??
Fortunately the answer is no. There are actually quite a few companies now that are making organic cotton tampons. All natural, organic tampons are made from non-GMO certified organic cotton. They are free of irritating dyes, fragrances, rayon and all the risks that accompany rayon. Organic tampons are only marginally more expensive than conventional tampons but are most definitely worth the extra dollar. Therefore take the time and effort to make the right choice, and protect yourself from toxic tampons. You are worth it!