Unwrapping the Myths -
Are tampons one of the reasons for increasing vaginal problems? Women use 11 to 12,000 tampons over their life cycle – and fibers and chemicals are left in the vagina when each tampon is removed.
“We now have staggering rates of endometriosis, fibroids, PID [Pelvic Inflammatory Disease], TSS and 1.7 million hysterectomies performed this past year–the most [ever],” she said. “Twenty-five years ago, these were rare illnesses for women.”
The question’s absorbing: Are tampons little white lies?
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By Joanna Citrinbaum
Collegian Staff Writer
So your tampon’s out of sight, out of mind… right? Maybe it shouldn’t be. Tampons have been around for almost 70 years, but it wasn’t until the addition of synthetic chemicals and the discovery of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) that researchers began to question their safety. In doing so, they’ve pulled the plug on possible health risks. Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, retired professor from San Diego State University and author of the recently released The Uterine Crisis, said women who read the risks of tampon use off the side of a box aren’t getting the full story.
What’s in your tampon?
Tampons are made of a variety of ingredients, “Tampons are not just cotton,” Perlingieri said. “They are made of dyes, fragrances, super-absorbent chemicals.” She said research has found a link between uterine problems and bleached tampons.
“In the last 25 years, millions of women–teens through women in elder years–have uterine-related troubles,” she said. “Part of the trouble we know from research is directly related to bleaching of tampons.”
Chlorine from bleach eventually turns to dioxin, Perlingieri said. “All tampons are bleached with the exception of two companies,” she said. “Chlorine, whether in laundry, swimming pools, or in tampons, breaks down into a deadly chemical called dioxin.”
“Dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals on the planet and literally a tablespoon [of it] would kill everyone on the planet,” she said. “It’s so deadly.”
Jill Wood, an instructor in Penn State’s women’s studies department who received her master’s degree studying menstruation and menstrual health, said she does not use tampons as a precaution for her health and safety.
“I don’t use commercial tampons,” she said. “I don’t think the health risks are reasonable. I also eat organic food. Pesticides and dioxins are not safe in food or tampons.”
She said tampon companies underestimate the effects of dioxin. “Tampon manufacturers say that [tampons] are safe and levels of dioxin are so low that they are almost undetectable,” she said. “[That may be] true, but we only need a small trace amount for dioxin to do damage. It accumulates in our bodies over our lifetime and it’s not something the body can ever get rid of. Ingesting it in food is one thing, but putting it in vaginas is another.”
Tierno said chlorine bleach, while safer than other bleaches, is not safe in respect to the large amount of tampons women can use in their lifetime.
“The chemical used to bleach tampons, chlorine dioxide, is better than chlorine bleaches used previously,” he said. “Even in small amounts, it is no good and many women use tampons throughout their lives. This is quite significant.”
Perlingieri also believes dioxin is unsafe because women use a lot of tampons. “Women use 11 to 12,000 tampons over their life cycle … maybe more with teens using them,” she said. “All that dioxin going into a woman’s bloodstream and all those fibers wandering around in a woman’s body–that’s part of the toxic brew. Tampon companies have known for decades that the ingredients in products are not safe.”