Little Known Facts – Choosing the right tampon?
Dr. Gupta talks about the good, the bad and the ugly about Tampons. How safe are tampons? How scary or not scary are they?
Q: What are the most common ingredients in Tampon?
Most brand name widely available tampons contain, rayon, cotton and a polyester coating for the absorbent core.
The strings may be polyester or cotton and the applicator may be plastic or cardboard.
They may contain also fragrances and/ or odor neutralizers.
Q: Are the tampon ingredients harmful?
The cotton fibers need to be bleached before manufacturing, for which purpose, chlorine may be used. There is a doubt but no clear evidence that the bleaching with chlorine may cause release of a toxin called dioxin, which if absorbed into blood stream may cause cellular damage. Unfortunately, there are no clear, in vivo ( human) studies to show the amount of absorption of dioxin or polypropylene from the coating and how the ingredients are metabolized if absorbed into the system.
Again, there is no clear evidence as to short term or long-term dangerous side effects of these ingredients.
There is a possibility that the rayon and polypropylene after being in contact with body fluids may release some ingredients akin to BPA and other phthalates. Long-term exposure to the former chemicals has been associated with hormone imbalances and immune suppression.
Q: Forgotten tampon?
The main concern historically with tampons has been the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS can happen with any foreign material left in the human body for a long time. The cotton or the tampon is basically a foreign body. A forgotten tampon used to be common cause of TSS in the pre-antibiotic era. The foreign body can get infected with Staphylococcus and cause widespread infection throughout the blood stream, which untreated can lead to death.
Q: Which tampon is safe?
Now, a safe to use tampon should be made of pure cotton with a cotton or inert covering. The covering has to be secure so that when the tampon is pulled out, it doesn’t leave any cotton fibers in the vagina. Unbleached cotton is the best and a cotton string is preferable.
Q: Recommended Tampon brands?
As far as the brands, there are many brands toting the words “organic”, “pure”, “unbleached” etc etc. We need to actually read every single ingredient, and not just rely on the highlighted packaging. Some pure cotton tampon brands are Natracare, Emerita, Seventh Generation.
- I strongly recommend reading every single ingredient and do allergy testing first if trying a new brand.
- Never leave a tampon in for more than 3 to 4 hours. For all those busy professional women out there, set an alarm if you need to.
- Retained tampon is the most common cause of unrelenting vaginal infections. And once the infections kick in, it is very hard to turn the pH back to it’s health state where the good bacteria are winning.
Stay tuned for more of our “Little Known Facts” series….
Dr. Adeeti Gupta