The facts about toxins in tampons

There are endless rumours about tampons and their contents. Some are true; others are just not.

1. No, tampons do not contain asbestos, and never have

A rumour was going around the internet that tampon manufacturers were adding asbestos to tampons to increase menstrual bleeding to sell more tampons.

The FDA looked into it, and has so far found no evidence of asbestos in tampons, nor any tampons causing increased menstrual bleeding.

2. No, tampons do not contain dioxin, because bleaching is now done differently

Tampons are made from either pure cotton, or a blend of rayon (made from the cellulose of wood pulp) and cotton.

Dioxin is a combination of chemical compounds which can be a by-product of bleaching wood pulp with elemental chlorine, but this bleaching method isn’t used anymore.

See the full explanation in our article about dioxin in tampons.

3. Yes, tampons are whitened to make them look nice

The fibres used in tampons are whitened to make them look better.

4. Yes, tampons are believed to be generally safe to use

There is no credible evidence that tampons are unsafe for most people to use for period protection. In saying that, if you don’t like them or feel uncomfortable using them, then don’t.

Read the instructions insert and abide by the guidelines​1​. They are there to protect you. Educate yourself on toxic shock syndrome so you know what signs to look for in yourself or others.

5. Yes, larger tampon sizes are associated with an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

TSS is most commonly associated with menstruating women who wear super-absorbent tampons. We aren’t sure why, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use these, but do be aware.

In 2016 it was reported that there was a cluster of tampon-associated TSS in Michigan, USA, with five cases over just a couple of months. Over the past ten years, there was an average of fewer than four per year.

In the cases, four of the five were using super absorbency tampons and four out of five were using the Playtex Sport brand.

Not sure if you should use tampons?

If you are worried about your tampons being bleached or not knowing where they are sourced, there is a very easy solution: buy organically-grown unbleached 100% cotton tampons, or alternatively, don’t use tampons at all – there are other options like a reusable silicone menstrual cup, period undies or fabric/cotton pads.

If you believe that you react badly to tampons, try different varieties, find out how they are made by contacting the company that makes them, and be consumer-smart. The phone numbers on product packets are there for a reason!

References

  1. 1.
    Billon A, Gustin MP, Tristan A, et al. Association of characteristics of tampon use with menstrual toxic shock syndrome in France. EClinicalMedicine. Published online April 2020:100308. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100308


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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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