Natural Feminine Products Paola KS
Obstetrics & Gynecology
Medical School: St Louis Univ Sch Of Med, St Louis Mo 63104
Graduation Year: 1992
Natural Beauty - Protecting Yourself from Feminine Protection
By Anna Soref
For many women, choosing a monthly supply of menstrual products is a no-brainer—toss some tampons and pads into the shopping cart, and it’s on to the toothpaste aisle. But there may be more than meets the eye to these seemingly simple products.
Most conventional menstrual products contain synthetic fibers that may be a factor in toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Many of them also contain perfumes and other potentially harmful chemicals that may pose long-term health consequences. By learning how to choose these products carefully and use them properly, you can avoid health risks without sacrificing protection.
Of all the personal hygiene products, the tampon raises the most important health issues because it sits for hours surrounded by some of the female body’s most porous membranes. “The vagina absorbs quite readily,” says Dr. Philip M. Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center. “When you put a chemical substance in the vagina, it’s in the bloodstream a half hour later.”
No wonder it’s important to know what’s in your tampons. And that should be as easy as reading the label, right? Well, not really. No one requires tampon manufacturers to list ingredients on their packages, so you need some savvy if you want to make wise choices.
Since about half of reported TSS cases occur in women using tampons, it’s wise to choose menstrual products that are least likely to contribute to it. TSS, which is caused by bacterial toxins, is a rare but potentially fatal disease. A lot of controversy exists over what it is about tampons that increases TSS risk, but two widely agreed-upon factors are the tampon’s absorbency and amount of time it is left in place. Another less clear factor may be the material from which the tampon is made. As a rule, most conventional tampons are made of rayon or a cotton/rayon blend. Rayon is a synthetic fiber made from wood pulp, and while it is more absorbent than cotton, Tierno claims it increases a woman’s risk of TSS. “Rayon provides a perfect chemical condition for production of staph [Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium usually responsible for TSS],” says Tierno. And he asserts that not one case of TSS has resulted from a 100 percent cotton tampon.
Dioxin presents another reason to be concerned about the rayon or conventional cotton used in tampons. A byproduct from the chlorine used to bleach those fibers, dioxin is a probable carcinogen, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Until several years ago, conventional feminine protection manufacturers were using chlorine to bleach the wood pulp used in their products. Under pressure from the FDA, manufacturers abandoned this chlorine bleach and now use hydrogen peroxide or chlorine dioxide (a different agent from chlorine). But the FDA recently reported that traces of dioxin are still present in mainstream tampon products—even 100 percent cotton ones.
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