Sunday, January 04, 2009 – Posted by Sara Chamberlain , in Cloth for Women
An American woman uses as many as 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. Most tampons sold by companies such as Tampax, OB, Playtex and Kotex are made of rayon or rayon-cotton blends. Rayon, a woodpulp derivative commonly bleached with chlorine, contains dioxin, an organochlorine formed during the bleaching process.Mounting evidence suggests that low levels of dioxin may be linked to cancer (especially breast cancer), immune system suppression and low sperm counts. A February 7 Village Voice article estimated that 73 million US women regularly risk dioxin exposure when they put bleached sanitary products in contact with highly absorbent mucous membranes.In 1992, a congressional subcommittee discovered a March 1989 memo stating that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists had detected trace levels of dioxin in tampons.The memo warned that “the risk of dioxin in tampons can be quite high,” and that “the most effective risk-management strategy would be to assure that tampons contain no dioxin.” Subcommittee chair Ted Weiss accused the FDA of purposely ignoring the dioxin danger in tampons. A New York University School of Medicine study, published in the July 1994 issue of Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggested that rayon also produces Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS). When researchers tested 20 varieties of tampons for their ability to induce TSS toxins, the bacteria were detected in all US brands.
Despite the deaths of 38 women in 1980 from tampon-related TSS, the tampon industry continues to deny that there is a connection between TSS and rayon. A class- action lawsuit has been filed against Tambrands Inc., the makers of Tampax, and Playtex Family Product Corp. by Jeannie Harding and Sandra Hayes, two Kansas women who allege that they contracted TSS from the company’s tampons. According to a May 31, 1994 Wall Street Journal article, the lawsuit “seeks to require manufacturers to adequately notify women of the alleged dangers of their products and to pay restitution, as well as establish a fund for long-term monitoring and treatment of the illness.”
Fortunately, dioxin-free, 100-percent cotton tampons have been available to American women since September, 1993. Natracare, a British company, offers a full line of sanitary products, including panty-liners that contain woodpulp bleached with hydrogen peroxide (which has no negative impacts on human health or the environment).
In January, the California Assembly will consider a bill (A1963) to require the state Department of Health Services to determine if sanitary products contain dioxin residue. The bill would also require warning labels on all sanitary products found to contain dioxin residue. Tampon companies are currently not required to list the contents of their products on their packaging.
What You Can Do:
A1963 is sponsored by Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont): (916) 445-7874. For free educational material and ordering information, write Natracare at 191 University Blvd., Suite 294, Denver, CO 80206; firstname.lastname@example.org; (303) 320-1510