The History o’the Tampon:
The Egyptians used softened papyrus as a makeshift tampons and the Greeks used lint wrapped around wood. Other materials used in the past were wool, paper, plant fibers, sponges, grass, and cotton.
Early tampons available to women in the 1920s did not have an applicator. Some had to be removed by actually reaching in and handling the cotton or gauze tampon, while others had strings for easy removal. In 1929, Dr. Earl Haas invented a stringed tampon with an applicator. He filed for the patent in 1931 (a portion of which can be seen here), and later trademarked the name “Tampax.” The rights and product were then purchased by Gertrude Tendrich, who founded the Tampax company. And in 1936, the first Tampax ad was launched and a package of 10 tampons cost a whopping 35 cents! You can view the ad here. There are a lot more tampons on the market to choose from, some with applicators (cardboard or plastic), some without, some organic, some with odor control, some without.
Do Tampons Contain Dioxins and Other Harmful Chemicals:
Some people believe that exposure to dioxins increases your changes of developing Endometriosis. Dioxins are a carcinogen byproduct of manufacturing pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and paper. This has caused many women to pursue a natural and healthy lifestyle, avoiding as much exposure to environmental toxins and dioxins as possible.
The FDA assures the public that due to newer standards and processing procedures, the amounts of any dioxin levels found in today’s tampon products are safe. “…dioxin levels in the rayon raw materials for tampons are reported to be at or below the detectable limit of the state-of-the-art dioxin assay, i.e., approximately 0.1 to 1 parts per trillion. FDA’s risk assessment indicates that this exposure is many times less than normally present in the body from other environmental sources, so small that any risk of adverse health effects is considered negligible. A part per trillion is about the same as one teaspoon in a lake fifteen feet deep and a mile square.”
Deodorizing or artificially scented tampons may contain chemicals that have been linked to cancer and birth defects. Many cotton crops in the United States are routinely sprayed with pesticides; cotton which is then transformed into your tampons. Additionally, many people are concerned that non-organic tampons or pads contain cotton from GMO crops.
Regardless of the FDA’s public announcement that tampons are safe, legislative efforts are ongoing for additional regulation and research. Tampon safety concerns have been raised before the Congressional House in 1997 and again brought in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011, and in 2014. Each of these acts was brought forth by New York 12th District Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. Her bill would seek further research about dioxins and other chemicals found in tampons and encourages the FDA to further scrutinize the the materials and toxicity levels of feminine hygiene products and to better inform the public about any potential risks. Keep up the good work, Congresswoman Maloney. If you would like to write Congresswoman Maloney, you may reach her at one of her several offices, which can be located at the bottom of her page here.
Additionally, there is a petition on Change.org to force manufacturers of tampons and pads to fully disclose their ingredients on their packaging. If you wish to review and/or sign the petition, you can locate it here.
Many physicians believe Endometriosis is caused by retrograde menstruation. Think of a backwards period. Menstrual blood in your uterus flows backward, through your Fallopian tubes, escaping out into your pelvic cavity. The endometrial cells contained in that blood stick to your pelvic cavity and organs, grow, bleed, and cause adhesions. There have been several studies on retrograde menstruation, and oddly enough not every woman who has retrograde menstruation has Endometriosis.
Many people have voiced questions and concerns if using tampons blocks the natural flow of menses, forcing it to back-up and cause retrograde menstruation. And many people do not believe that retrograde menstruation is a cause of Endometriosis. And yet others believe that the use of tampons lessens the risk of developing Endometriosis. An interesting response by the Endometriosis Research Center can be read here regarding the findings that tampon-use reduces the risk of developing Endometriosis. The truth is : nobody really knows.
What Am I Going to Do:
I have a unique situation: I have two cervix; a left and a right. During my teens and 20s, I didn’t know I had two cervix. And always “bled around” my tampons: the string would be filthy, my clothing would be ruined, but generally the cotton was unused and…not completely bloodied. In my 30s, I was told I have the two fully-functioning cervix. And my physician encouraged me to try using two tampons. And *voila* it worked.
But since reading all that I’ve read about Endometriosis, chemicals, and healthy living, I’ve made the switch to organic pads. If using tampons increases my exposure to dioxins or other chemical toxins, or even increases the risk of retrograde menstruation, I’m not going to take those risks. And if they don’t increase any of those risks or exposures, who cares? I’ll be living healthier anyway with organic, unbleached goodness.
I have yet to take the step to washable/reusable fabric pads. I just remember seeing a menstrual pad belt when I was a kid and it was…horrifying. And that’s all I can think of when I think of these new (easy and convenient) washable pads. But who knows? Maybe I’ll get tired of spending money on disposables and take the plunge!
What about you? Want to chime in? Drop a comment below 🙂
Caronlyn B. Maloney
Congress.gov – second link
Endometriosis Research Center
Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health
Naturopathic Doctor News & Review
Swarthmore College Computer Society
United States Food and Drug Administration
United States Food and Drug Administration – second link
United States Patent and Trademark Office
~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa