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TAMPONS

Kelly Fuller

I am writing this because we, as women, are not being informed about the dangers of something most of us use -- tampons. I'm taking a class this month and I have been learning a lot about biology and the woman, including much about feminine hygiene. Recently we have learned that tampons are actually dangerous (for other reasons than TSS). Read on if you're interested, if not, that's fine too. But I'll tell you this -- after learning about this in our class, most of the females wound up feeling angry and upset with the tampon industry, and I for one, am going to do something about it. To start, I want to inform everyone I can, and email is the fastest way that I know how.

HERE'S THE SCOOP:
Tampons contain two things that are potentially harmful: rayon (for absorbency) and dioxin (a chemical used in bleaching the products). The tampon industry is convinced that we, as women, need bleached white products -- they seem to think that we will view the product as pure and clean. The problem here is that the dioxin produced in this bleaching process can lead to very harmful problems for a woman. Dioxin is potentially carcinogenic (cancer-associated) and is toxic to the immune and reproductive systems. It has been linked to endometriosis as well as lower sperm counts for men.

In September 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that there really is no set "acceptable" level of exposure to dioxin. Given that it is cumulative and slow to disintegrate, the real danger comes from repeated contact (Karen Houppert, "Pulling the Plug on the Tampon Industry"). I'd say using about five tampons a day, five days a month, for 38 menstruating years is "repeated contact", wouldn't you? Rayon contributes to the danger of tampons and dioxin because it is a highly absorbent substance; when fibers from the tampons are left behind in the vagina (as usually occurs), it creates a breeding ground for the dioxin, and the chemical stays in a lot longer than it would with just cotton tampons. This is also why toxic shock syndrome (TSS) occurs.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
Using feminine hygiene products that aren't bleached (which causes the dioxin) and that are all-cotton (the rayon will leave fibers and "breeding grounds" in the vagina). Other feminine hygiene products (pads/napkins) contain dioxin as well, but they are not nearly as dangerous since they are not in direct contact with the vagina. The pads/napkins need to stop being bleached, but obviously tampons are the most dangerous. So, what can you do if you can't give up using tampons? Use tampons that are made from 100% cotton, and that are unbleached. Unfortunately, there are very few companies that make these safe tampons. They are usually only found in health food stores. Countries all over the world (Sweden, Germany, Canada, etc.) have demanded a switch to this safer tampon, while the United States has decided to keep us in the dark about it. In 1989, activists in England mounted a campaign against chlorine bleaching. Six weeks and 50,000 letters later, the makers of sanitary products switched to oxygen bleaching (one of the green methods available) (Ms. magazine, May/June 1995). Personally, I think it's time that the United States switches. We need to make our voices heard.


Tell people. Everyone. Inform them. This industry and the government are manipulating us. Let's do something about it! Tell everyone to write to the companies -- Tampax (Tambrands), Playtex, O.B., and Kotex. Call the 1-800 numbers on the boxes. LET THEM KNOW THAT WE DEMAND A SAFE PRODUCT-ALL-COTTON, UNBLEACHED TAMPONS. The best thing to do right now is to spread the word. If you're not comfortable giving up tampons (although this is obviously the best way to make our voices heard), try using less by alternating with pads (but remember that you still must
change your tampons frequently because of TSS).

If anyone has any more questions, please feel free to write and ask. I have a whole packet of information and am willing to lend it out. Please send this to everyone you know. Let's get the ball rolling and take control of what the industry is doing to our bodies.

Addresses and phone numbers:

Edward Fogarty, President
Tambrands, Inc.
777 Westchester Ave.
White Plains, NY 10604

Cal Gauss, President
Playtex Products, Inc.
P.O. Box 7016
Dover, DE 19903
(302) 674-6000

Colleen Goggins, President
Personal Products Co.
(maker of O.B. tampons)
Van Liew Ave.
Milltown, NJ 08850
(908) 524-0500

Johnson & Johnson
(parent company of Personal Products Co.)
One J and J Plaza
New Brunswick, NJ 08933
(908) 524-0400



To send for all-cotton, bleach-free tampons write:

Natracare
191 University Blvd.
Suite 294
Denver, CO 80206

or call Bio Business International at (800) 755-0212

(These addresses have been taken from Ms. magazine, May/June 1995.)

Kelly Fuller (fullerk@stolaf.edu)
1500 St. Olaf Ave.
Northfield, MN 55057-1001


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