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Disclaimer: If you find the idea of feminine hygiene offensive, you are probably in the wrong site.
 
There has been a hoax tampon email doing the rounds for a long time, which has such a serious mish-mash of truth and rubbish in it that it alarms most women - especially endo sufferers. If you have seen this email, you may have been one of the women who were worried. It crops up periodically across the boards or in our inboxes and always causes a rash or replies. I hope that this page might be useful in refuting the daft hoax!

tampons.jpg

I'm not going to copy the entire hoax email here - if you haven't seen it many of the links below contain the full text. However, it makes various claims among which are:
 
*That tampons are made with asbestos....
The idea being that asbestos makes bleeding heavier. However, tampons have never contained asbestos! The American Food and Drug Administration issued a statement on 23rd July, 1999:

"Asbestos is not an ingredient in any U.S. brand of tampon, nor is it associated with the fibers used in making tampons. Moreover, tampon manufacturing sites are subject to inspection by FDA to assure that good manufacturing practices are being followed. Therefore, these inspections would likely identify any procedures that would expose tampons products to asbestos. If any tampon product was contaminated with asbestos, it would be as a result of tampering, which is a crime. Thus far, FDA has received no reports of tampering. Anyone having knowledge of tampon tampering is urged to notify FDA or a law enforcement officer."
 
The idea that authorities would dismiss tampons containing asbestos because they aren't ingested is also hooey. It is a known carcinogen whose primary contact is through the skin not the stomach, so no-one would consider the thinner internal membranes a lesser risk.
 
*That tampons contain harmful rayons.
While many commercial tampons do contain rayons, because it is so absorbent, the hoax claims that rayon fibres get "left behind" and become a breeding ground for dioxins. Hopefully, most people would realise that petrochemicals like dioxins can't "breed". Many would also realise that rayon - the artificial silky fabric, made from cellulose - leaves behind far fewer fibres than cotton. As Snopes points out, if you don't believe that, check the filter in the tumble dryer! Rayon-free (100% cotton) tampons are available through many large supermarkets, health shops or via the links on the alternative therapies page. 
 
*That tampons contain dioxins.
This is a harder one. Tampons DO contain dioxins. Dioxins are a by-product of chlorine bleaching and are one of the most toxic substances known to man. They are carcinogenic and have been proved by the Endometriosis Association to *cause* endometriosis.
 
"The EA discovered a colony of rhesus monkeys that had developed endometriosis after exposure to dioxin. 79% of the monkeys exposed to dioxin developed endometriosis, and, in addition, the more dioxin exposure, the more severe the endo."
 
However, the amount of dioxin left in tampons is minimal, according to the FDA.

"State-of-the art testing of tampons and tampon materials that can detect even trace amounts of dioxin has shown that dioxin levels are at or below the detectable limit (approximately 0.1 to 1 parts per trillion). No risk to health would be expected from these trace amounts."

Dioxins within the environment are almost unavoidable. They are well established within the food chain, they are in the water we drink and even the air we breath. It would be impossible to state that any harm we may or may not come to was caused by dioxins in tampons rather than another source!

*Signed by Dr Katzenellenbogen.
If ever there were an argument against thoughtlessly hitting the forward button, surely this is it! This unfortunate link happened when an assistant working with Dr Katzenellenbogen, a respected figure in molecular biology, passed the hoax on, not realising that the automatic signature attachment added a false authenticity to the piece.
Other agencies who have been inadvertantly linked to the hoax include M.K. Consultancy in London, who have never bothered to refute their association.
 
 

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If you still feel uneasy about using tampons there are alternatives. 100% organic cotton tampons are available. They don't use chlorine bleach in the process of making them (tampons are bleached for sterility rather than "because women like white"), and use organic cotton to reduce risks from pesticides and other nasties. However, these still carry the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome and are lesss absorbent.
 
There are other alternatives, such as the Keeper (a rubber cup) or towels. Sanitary towels would carry the same risks off dioxins, so using organic ones or cotton reusables would help reduce dioxin exposure. 

Toxic Shock Syndrome is caused by a bacteria Staphylococcus aureus which normally lives harmlessly on the skin. Rarely, these bacteria can produce toxins which cause TSS. 50% of TSS is associated with tampon use Around 40 cases of TSS are reported in the UK each year. Sadly, of these 2-3 may die. Caught early enough, TSS can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms are flu-like and include:
*fever*rash*vomiting*diarrhoea*muscle aches*dizziness or faintness*confusion*
If you are wearing a tampon and feel ill, remove the tampon and call a doctor.

Snopes Urban Legends

USA Food & Drug Administration

Ask Dr. Cook

Quachwatch Guide to Health Fraud