I don’t want to ruin your day or anything, but here’s something terrifying you’ve probably never thought about: scientists barely know anything about the long-term effects of tampons on our health. Did you know that? I didn’t know that! You’re putting a foreign object inside yourself that was only sort of studied for safety risks, and I’m sorry to have told you that, because now you’ll have to join me in what will surely become a period paranoia.
Tampons approved by the FDA have only been tested by the manufacturers who hope to sell them and thus have motive to be less than thorough in their assessment. No independent tests from third-party researchers are required for tampons to make it onto drugstore shelves and into the hands of millions of women. Other feminine products like wipes and douches have been approved without any testing at all. New York Representative Carolyn Maloney hopes to change that with the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act (named after a woman who died from TSS in 1998), which would require the National Institutes of Health to conduct independent research on whether the additives in tampons are dangerous over years of use. Maloney is reintroducing the bill after first bringing before congress in 1997. It’s been shot down a whopping nine times since then, because apparently all those dudes in Congress, not having ladyparts and what have you, just aren’t too concerned about the health of the other fifty percent of the population.
The FDA has shared that there are small (sometimes barely detectable) amounts of dioxins in tampons, and that the amount is so minuscule that it doesn’t pose a risk to health — keep in mind, this data is coming from the tampon manufacturers themselves, who are pretty interested in making you want to buy said tampons. The companies are required by the FDA to continue to monitor dioxin levels. So, even if these dioxins aren’t harmful after using just one tampon, is there any need to worry about the fact that we’re exposed to these chemicals repeatedly throughout our lives, every single time we use a tampon? And what about other additives found in tampons? We just don’t know! Maloney wrote in a recent op-ed that women were mostly excluded from medical research until the 1980s, even when it came to studying diseases that largely impact women, like breast cancer. Women and minorities weren’t required to be represented in clinical studies until as recently as 1993, so the void of just how much we don’t know about female health runs pretty deep.
Bummer that we can’t just opt out of getting our periods so we wouldn’t have a dire need for tampons or pads until we’re sure the products are safe! Alas, we need those suckers every single month, and for all we know, we could be slowly poisoning ourselves. This is pretty scary stuff, and while the odds may seem low that tampons could turn out to be extremely dangerous, it seems like a pretty precarious gamble to take, doesn’t it? Considering what a hefty percentage of the world population uses them, and the fact that these very same people are giving birth to the world’s children, who could in turn also be impacted by whatever chemicals harmed their mothers’ bodies, I’m unclear on why wouldn’t we want to do the research to find out for sure that no risk is posed. Come on, Congress! Do womankind a solid.
Original by Claire Hannum