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.