The Risks of Using Tampons

By Jenny Marie DeJesus Page 1/3

"Tampons are more comfortable than pads, and they make me feel fresher and cleaner," said a 19-year-old college woman. "When I used to wear pads, I always felt as if I was wearing a diaper. When I wear tampons, I don't even feel as if I have my period. They are also smaller and easier to carry compared to pads."

For years, women have been using
tampons without knowing the risks.

Many women have the same point of view and make the choice to use tampons. However, some women do not know about, or choose to ignore, the dangers of using tampons. One of the biggest risks is tampon-induced Toxic-Shock Syndrome (TSS) which is a rare, and potentially fatal, disease. The second health risk is of a somewhat ambiguous nature.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

According to the Terra Femme web pages on TSS and TSS symptoms and preventions, most officially diagnosed cases of tampon-related TSS occur in women under 30 years of age, especially among teenagers 15 to 19 years of age.

TSS is fatal in about six percent of cases. Sixty percent of TSS fatalities are reported to be in women 15 to 24 years of age, and 98 percent of these are white women. Women who have survived TSS have suffered miscarriages, loss of hair and limbs, paralysis, severe organ damage, reduced lung capacity and various other ailments.

TSS is caused by a strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacterial toxin known as TSST-1. The symptoms of TSS, according to the terra femme web page include: a high fever, sunburn-like rash, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, disorientation, headache, sore throat, achy muscles, fainting, flu-like symptoms, peeling skin, bloodshot eyes and a rapid decrease of blood pressure.

In the 1980s, researchers learned that
improper tampon use was spreading
TSS to unknowning women.

The best way to avoid tampon-related TSS is by not wearing tampons. However, other preventative measures include using only all-cotton tampons, alternating tampon use with menstrual pads, refraining from using tampons overnight or between menstrual periods and using the lowest absorbency tampon necessary to absorb menstrual flow.

The Other Dangers

Even though Tampax and Playtex warn consumers about TSS, manufacturers fail to mention the controversy over other suspected dangers of wearing tampons. These risks arise from the synthetic fibers that make tampons and the chemicals used to bleach them. Advocacy groups and industry representatives advance competing claims about whether these manufacturing processes are dangerous.

According to S.P.O.T.: The Tampon Health Website, nearly all major brand tampons contain synthetic fibers and go through a chlorine bleaching process, which produces toxic by-products such as dioxin and furan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done a study which shows that excess chlorine causes cancer in humans, and both the immune and reproductive systems can be damaged by minimal quantities.

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