Toxins, Dioxins, and Tampons

Lately my targeted ads have featured serious women with signs saying the ages at which they learned what was in their tampons. Clicking on the ads leads me to companies offering me organic tampons with a healthy side of fear mongering about other tampons.  What exactly we are fearmongering about isn’t totally clear.  A quick moment of internet searching later, I find an article from Mother Jones about herbicides on non organic cotton and dioxins and rayon. So how terrified should we be of tampons?

First of all, let’s recall that lots of bacteria live inside the vagina, and blood soaked materials are great environments for bacteria to grow, as the toxic shock syndrome deaths from super absorbent tampons back in the 70s demonstrate.   Tampons should be changed regularly and it is a concern what is in them to start with as any fun infection causing substances will find them an excellent breeding ground.  The FDA does regulate tampons, fortunately, so it isn’t as though Big Period can simply fill tampons with whatever scary sounding chemical whatever. A large concern seems to be that of dioxins, a substance which is, in fact, a known carcinogen. This is a substance which is present in our food and atmosphere already because pollution is real. As reported by the national center for health research, there is no difference in dioxin content between 100% cotton tampons, and a mix of cotton and wood pulp, and also that a chlorine free bleaching process is used, contradicting the Mother Jones article.

A viable point is that sticking fabric up one’s vagina may be a more concerning method of exposure to dioxins than eating them, even if there is less in the vagina than in the food. However, at present, I cannot find evidence that this has actually been studied.  The Mother Jones article is worried about plastic applicators, but I only use cardboard because I care about the environment. Not enough to stop using tampons, but enough to use the ones with cardboard applicators and paper wrappers. I angst way more about my daily contacts as far as plastic and waste go, but it’s not like I have environmental moral purity on anything.

There is congressional bill which does not seem to have gotten further than introduction to require research on actual effects in tampons. I support this. Data is good. Research is good.  Things that go inside the vagina should be held to a high standard of research because, again, breeding grounds for disease. However, until we have that research  if anyone is trying to make you feel nervous about what is in your tampons, they are likely trying to sell you more expensive tampons.

Featured image: My new kitten. She pulled a tampon out of a box and murdered it. 

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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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