The Risks of Using Tampons

The Risks of Using TamponsAccording to legend tampons can get lost in a womans body never to be seen again; tampons are spiked with asbestos to increase bleeding and boost sales; and rayon tampons are especially dangerous to a woman’s health.

These are Internet legends and the truth is:

Asbestos has never been a component in the manufacturing of tampons. Asbestos can only get into tampons through some sort of tampering. Rayon tampons are just as safe as cotton ones. Tampons don’t get lost in a woman’s body – ever.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates tampons as a medical device. This forces the manufacturers to conduct safety studies, review and clear the products before they can be marketed to the general public. The FDA also regulates absorbency ratings.

Each box of tampons has an absorbency rating that is consistent from brand to brand. So purchasing Brand A with a super absorbency rating will get you the same absorbency as purchasing Brand B with a super rating.

Initially Toxic Shock Syndrome was linked with high levels of absorbency in tampons. TSS is the only disease with a proven link to tampon use according to the FDA and National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About of all TSS cases happened to women using tampons. In 1980 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) noticed a sharp rise in the number of TSS cases, some that were very serious and some that were fatal. The disease was caused by the toxins produced by a strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

The Toxic Shock Syndrome outbreak reached its peak in 1980 with a total of 813 cases which included 38 deaths. After a national and state-based studies to pinpoint risk factors one factor stood out the use of highly absorbent tampons made from a new material used by Proctor & Gambles Rely tampons. The material was a polyester foam and a highly absorbent cellulose. These products are no longer used in tampons.

Since the removal of these products from tampons there has been a decline in the number of cases of TSS reported. In 1988 there were 3 confirmed cases and in 1997 there were 6.

Since 1980 manufacturers reduced the absorbency rating of tampons so they had to be changed more frequently. In 1982 the FDA also required labeling of all tampons to carry warnings of TSS. Although it is rare, tampon users should still be aware of the symptoms of TSS. Symptoms mimic the flu: sudden high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, rash that looks like sunburn during your period or a few days afterwards and dizziness. One or two weeks after the first symptoms appear a woman’s skin begins flaking and peeling, mainly on the palms and feet.

A woman can avoid the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome by following package directions for insertion, choosing the lowest absorbency rating to control the flow, knowing the warning signs of TSS, changing the tampon every 4-6 hours and not using a tampon between periods.

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