Half the population menstruates, and tampons rule the market at 70 percent of menstrual hygiene consumption. However, there is a huge lack of transparency in tampon ingredients, and what we don’t know could be affecting our health.
Everyone who uses a tampon knows to watch out for Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is when bacteria enters the bloodstream and causes fever, shock and complications with internal organs. But the health effects of tampons can go beyond Toxic Shock Syndrome.
The average menstruator uses 11 to 30 tampons per cycle, according to a study from Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
A 2016 National Center for Health Research report states that tampons containing the fabric fiber rayon, such as Tampax and U by Kotex, have a by-product of dioxin. The EPA regards dioxin as a highly toxic carcinogen that can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system and interfere with hormones.
Over the last decade, manufactures have greatly decreased the amount of dioxin in tampons. However, even 100 percent cotton tampons may still contain trace amounts of dixon. Consumers have no way of knowing. Menstrual hygiene products are listed as medical products, so the ingredients do not have to be disclosed to the public.
Though the FDA has said that trace amounts of dioxin should not be a concern for human health, Dr. Phillip Tierno, one of the people who discovered the link between Toxic Shock Syndrome and tampons, begs to differ.
Dr. Tierno told CNN he agrees that trace amounts of dioxin are not harmful for one time use. However, considering the average woman has 12,000 periods and changes tampons four to five times per day, lifelong exposure to the chemical can be concerning.
However, we don’t know how concerning it is because little research has been done to investigate lifelong effects of tampon use on health.
Women’s Voices for Earth hoped to bring awareness to this through the 2013 Chem Fatale report regarding the potential effects of menstrual products. The report states products marketed as safe operate under the assumption that these products are used in areas just like regular skin.
However, intimate care products are used in the extremely porous and sensitive mucous membranes of the vaginal area. Chemicals used there can go directly to the reproductive organs and the blood stream.
This means dioxin and other chemicals could be of high concern for menstruators, yet they have no way of knowing what is in their tampons.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York hopes to change this. She has introduced versions of the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act since 1997. This act requires the FDA to broaden its monitoring efforts and disclose a list of contaminates in feminine products.
It also demands the National Institute of Health research how the components of tampons affect women and their children. This act has failed to pass all eight times it has been introduced to congress.
Consumers of tampons should be outraged by this flagrant lack of respect for their customers. Let’s demand to know what we buy and how it could affect us. Let’s not settle for anything less than complete transparency.