HEALTHWASHING
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Part 2: Tampax Tampons, Toxic Sticks Of Death

 

Part 1, Tampax Tampons: Toxic Sticks of Death

Who didn't love their acid wash jeans? You know... the kind, as pictured above, that came up so high you barely needed to wear a shirt? Ever wonder what kind of chemical mess went into getting those hot and sexy bleached out patterns into our denim? Well, my fair fertile ladies, it was not so different from the chemical soup that bathes the tampons we're using.

Originally tampons were made of 100% cotton. When women complained of seepage, manufacturers increased the absorbency by blending the cotton with highly absorbent synthetic fibers including polyester, polyacrylate rayon, carboxymehtylcellulose and viscose rayon. What?

In the early 80’s there was noise made about tampons when 38 women died of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a bacterial infection linked to the use of high absorbency tampons.  Following these events, though denying ties to these deaths, tampon manufacturers changed the formulation of their tampons. In private testing, it was determined that these synthetic materials were attracting the bacteria that lead to TSS.  The lesser of the evil synthetics was the rayon/viscose blend and this is what remains in conventional tampons.

Most tampons are treated with chemicals that have no place in the vagina.  Just as I say heck no to Cottonseed oil, it is for the same reason I say heck no to sticking toxic cotton up into my nethers.

84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of conventional cotton grown each year in the US.

84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of conventional cotton grown each year in the US. Forget food,  these chemicals are some of the most toxic used in agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency has declared seven of the top 15 to be ‘possible’, ‘likely’, ‘probable’, or ‘known’ human carcinogens.  Is it too extreme to call this vaginal poisoning?

The rayon/viscose used in Tampax is made from wood pulp. There is no such thing as rayon trees and trees don't magically turn into rayon- it takes chemicals.  Lots of them. The chlorine bleaching of wood pulp is where the greatest danger lies.  The process creates chlorinated hydrocarbons, a hazardous group of chemicals with byproducts that includes dioxins, some of the most toxic substances known. Parts per million my cooch! There are no safe levels dioxins, they are impossible to break down and so keep building up in our tissues.

Want to get chemical for a moment?

Responding to protest from the consumer and by the US government with the "The Women's Health and Dioxin Act", followed by the "Tampon Safety and Research Act." (“Protect Women from Dioxin and Toxic Shock Syndrome”) the tampon industry changed its rayon bleaching method to Elemental Chlorine Free (EFC) bleaching. This method replaces chlorine gas with chlorine dioxide, recognized for its disinfectant properties. Chlorine dioxide kills microorganisms by disrupting transport of nutrients across the cell membrane. Now, think about this nugget for a minute. This is the 'safe' option for tampon bleaching that inhibits nutrient absorption. And we know what happens when we aren't getting the goods from the foods we eat into our cells-- we get sick.

The makers use the theory that chlorine dioxide is far less reactive with organic materials than the previously used chlorine bleach. With no pure chlorine involved, EFC bleaching should theoretically result in a dioxin free product. This, however, is not the case. Studies have shown that the manufacturing of chlorine dioxide does not produce a pure product, as chemical reactions that take place during the bleaching process free elemental chlorine atoms, therefore releasing dioxin. The Worldwatch Institute has referred to ECF bleaching as a ‘low-tar cigarette’ strategy', lowering the amount of dioxins, not eliminating them.

According to the Environment Protection Agency, no safe level for dioxin exposure exists.

According to the Environment Protection Agency [EPA], no safe level for dioxin exposure exists. Very careful wording on the FDA website states that “some elemental chlorine-free bleaching processes can theoretically generate dioxins at extremely low levels, and dioxins are occasionally detected in trace amounts...”.  Given that dioxin is cumulative and slow to disintegrate, the real danger comes from repeated contact. I think it’s safe to consider five days a month, 12 months a year, for nearly 40 years to be repeated contact.

Just in case dioxin contaminated rayon and pesticide soaked cotton weren’t enough, tampons also contain cocktail of extra chemicals that include absorbency enhancers, synthetic deodorants, and artificial fragrances.

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28 Responses to “Part 2: Tampax Tampons, Toxic Sticks Of Death”

  1. K. Oster said… October 19, 2009
    Hello Meghan, I truly appreciate your illuminating article of the dangers of the pesticide and bleach saturated tampons we've become accustomed to using for generations. There can never be enough awareness-raising information and insight on this topic which goes largely untouched by mainstream press. With an an alarming increase in various reproductive cancers and disorders, women are eager to learn more about quality alternatives available to them. Naturally for Her http://www.naturallyforher.com provides a comprehensive selection of trusted natural, organic and hormone-free fertility and sexual health products, including the premium Natracare line...which we love! In November they will expand their offering to include 30+ new products including reusable Luna Pads and the Diva Cup. In this climate of uncertainty around the quality and safety of the food we consume and the products we have been told to trust, consciousness building is key!
  2. [...] if they are organic and unbleached, the pads and tampons have to go somewhere.  Megan Telpner has a fabulous blog post which includes a lot of the statistics mentioned here… and she gives away a free printable [...]
  3. Amber said… February 17, 2014
    I tried the diva cup and neither size worked for my body. It's a good idea, but need more sizes and shapes or something.
  4. […] oil, it is for the same reason I say heck no to sticking toxic cotton up into my nethers,” writes Meghan Telpner. “Did ya know that 84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of […]
  5. […] oil, it is for the same reason I say heck no to sticking toxic cotton up into my nethers,” writes Meghan Telpner. “Did ya know that 84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 14.4 million acres of […]

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