Monday, October 12, 2009


Jeez. It never ends, people. I was just minding my own beeswax last night, reading a 'The Secret Life of Germs', a book by Dr. Philip Tierno Jr. about germs that my good friend Helen sent me after I begged all my friends to send me reading material. Weston is interested in germs and is always asking questions about them, so I thought it would be good to brush up. It's a fascinating book, all about how we normally live in balance with microbes, which are everywhere, in huge quantities. Parts of your body have trillions of microbes per gram; that's a little scary, huh? Especially for us higher gram girls.

If you are old enough, you might remember the Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) scare of the mid-80's. The syndrome wasn't new but there was a new epidemic occurring in women using tampons. It turns out manufacturers had begun using cost-saving materials to make tampons instead of cotton, as had been done in the past, and the new materials were fostering bacterial growth, leading to the disease, which is often lethal. So they figured it out quickly, a few brands were pulled off the market, a few changes were made, and no one ever heard about it again. But guess what? People are still dying from TSS related to tampon use. Manufacturers are still using the alternative materials to make tampons. Want to know what they use? Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyway: ground-up sawdust mixed with a few other things for absorbency, and dioxin to make them nice and white.

Dioxin, in particular, is nasty. It's a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process that causes cancer and is suspected of causing or contributing to immune system and hormonal system disturbances, and fertility and other issues.So what, right? Surely studies have been done showing it's safe to use these things month after month for years and years, right? We're talking about half the population here! But nope, not a single study. In fact, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney has repeatedly introduced a bill that would require a study on the safety of tampons and related products, and it has been continually defeated. Can I just say, though, I LOVE Rep. Maloney! I almost want to move to her district. Anyway, there's no incentive for manufacturers to make safer products. Why should they? They are making money hand over fist and they aren't held accountable for the collateral human damage. It's much cheaper for them to settle an occasional lawsuit than spend the money to develop and produce a safer product. And the lack of studies makes it easy for them. Their expensive lawyers, lobbyists and PR staff that they pay with all the money they make off of us consumers say, 'Don't blame us! There's no proof that tampons cause TSS!' And they're right, there's not legal proof, because no studies have been done, because the manufacturers spend a lot of money to suppress bills that would require studies. But here's a novel idea: make the manufacturers prove their products are safe, instead of requiring dead people to prove that they were killed by dangerous products.

Here's what we can do: Contact your legislators in support of the Robin Danielson Act. Click here to find your representatives. And once again, talking with our money is the only way to make change in the consumer market. Luckily, there are lots of great alternatives to sawdust and dioxin tampons. Try the unbleached, all-cotton varieties, a Diva Cup, Mooncup, or reusable pads.

And also, just a general tip? Wash your hands a lot more than you're doing. It could save your life. For real. Do it before you eat, after you use any publicly used facilities or items (bathroom, telephone, elevator, movie seat, taxi, grocery cart), after you shake hands, after you shop, and when you come home. Use plenty of soap, and when your hands are clean, don't touch the faucet or bathroom door on the way out. As for me, I'm going to stop reading. But first, I'm going to go sanitize my door handles.


Lauren said...

Wow! I had no idea! I always remember my mom teling me about it during "that talk about how your body changes, yada yada." But I didn't realize that they use all that gross junk in there! And btw- I heard about the diva cup from Kristen Chase about a year ago and let me say NO STINKIN WAY!

Wendy Hawksley said...

Wow, I'm glad I never use tampons!!! Yes, this is something that needs to change. The way they're made, not whether or not I use them.

Helen said...

I can't remember...have you read The Hot Zone. If not, that needs to be your next one.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog. That is a book I will not be reading! I am enough of a germ freak without any extra help!!!

By the way I loved your post about HELL. Have 5 kids and no one will ask you to come to any work event:)
Christy Boyd

Loredana said...

That whole tampon thing I had read about a while ago and was not only shocked but disgusted. Therefore, I stopped using them!

And now as for germs in general...I have become a FREAK, especially with this whole swine flu craze!

I come into the office and wash my hands asap with soap. Then I use antibacterial. Then I lysol my entire area. Then I alcohol my phones all the time...think I'm a little OCD...