Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 13th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Tampons are categorised as
class II (along with 43 per
cent of other "medical
devices,") while unscented
sanitary napkins are class I.
Jessica Alba s The Honest Company is valued at
almost US$1 billion and its eco-friendly products
have been a hit with consumers. So when Alba
recently announced that her company is working
on a line of organic tampons, people paid attention.
This summer, The Honest Company will roll out
what it says is the world s first bioplastic comfort
applicator tampon, which will feature a 100 per cent
organic tampon. This new product will be released
alongside a line of certified organic, hypoallergenic
cotton sanitary pads and panty liners.
The feminine care industry has been dominated by
relatively few brands for decades and organic tampons
have been around for years. So why is Alba s company
diving into an already crowded market? She says it s
all about safety.
"Right now, manufacturers aren t required to disclose
exactly what s in these products, but between the
plastics and added fragrances, women are likely being
exposed to materials that are known or suspected
hormone disruptors, as well as carcinogens and aller-
gens," she said in a recent interview with Natural
Those are pretty scary claims---and experts say she
may be right on some level.
According to Terry Hoffman, MD, an obstetrician-
gynecologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore,
not enough research has been conducted to definitively
say whether non-organic tampons pose a problem.
However, that doesn t mean there aren t potential
One possible red flag: bleach. While it doesn t
appear on the ingredients label of tampon boxes, the
majority of tampons are bleached. That pristine white
colour is arguably unnecessary, but Hoffman points
out that there is no research that indicates this is a
health hazard. A study published in the journal Envi-
ronmental Health Perspectives in 2002 showed that
tampons contain trace amounts of dioxins (compounds
produced as a byproduct of manufacturing processes
like bleaching) but concluded that it was not a health
Pesticides are another potential issue. "Regular
tampons are often made of cotton blended with rayon,
and non-organic cotton is usually sprayed with pes-
ticides," explains Melissa Goist, MD, an obstetrician-
gynaecologist at The Ohio State University Wexner
The theory, Goist says, is that some of these byprod-
ucts could lead to certain forms of cancer when they re
absorbed through the vaginal wall. But, she notes,
"there is very little evidence to suggest this is actually
Fragrances used in some tampons to block the smell
of menstrual blood could also be irritating for some
women. "You don t want fragrances in your tam-
pons---that area is really sensitive," says Hoffman.
While a potential irritant, fragrance in tampons hasn t
been linked to any major health risks.
Here s what we do know: Mucous membranes,
which are part of the walls of the vagina, are very
absorbent. That s why contraceptive inserts like the
NuvaRing work, says Goist. Tampons can also leave
behind fibers if they re removed before they re wet.
"Sometimes when I do a pelvic exam, I can actually
see tampon residue if a patient has just finished her
period," says Hoffman. "It almost looks like white
cotton candy." But, she notes, those fibers eventually
comes out with vaginal discharge.
The conclusion by some people like Alba, then, is
that if there are chemicals in a tampon that you insert
into a very absorbent part of your body and potentially
even fibers left behind, there s a chance it could cause
"Can I imagine that chemicals can leach out of a
tampon, go through your vagina, and into your blood-
stream? It can happen, but it hasn t been proven,"
says Hoffman. She also is dubious about Alba s posited
link between tampon use and hormone disruptors:
"If hormone disruptors did that, you would expect
that women who use tampons would go into early
So who is making the call on tampon safety? The
tampon industry is regulated by the Food and Drug
Administration, but the organisation relies on data
submitted by tampon manufacturers to show how
safe and efficient their products are.
The FDA classifies tampons as a "medical device"
which are categorised into three classes (I, II, or III)
depending on level of risk, with III being the highest
level of risk. Tampons are categorised as class II (along
with 43 per cent of other "medical devices"), while
unscented sanitary napkins are class I. (yahoo.com)
Are tampons bad for you?
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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