Words: Nicci Talbot
I’ve been researching toxic shock syndrome (TSS) this week for an article. We tend to link it to tampon use but it’s a rare type of blood poisoning that can affect anyone – men, women and children. About half of the cases in the UK have been caused by tampon use (the super-absorbent type containing rayon wrapped in a plastic film). I’m not a fan of tampons. My body doesn’t seem to cope well with internally worn menstrual devices, which is a shame, as I love the convenience and simplicity of devices like the Mooncup.
TSS was first identified in teenage girls in the US in 1978 and the number of reported cases peaked in 1980 after the introduction of super-absorbent brands such as Rely. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified a link between super-absorbent tampons and TSS – the chemicals and synthetic additives used in tampon production. Rayon (a semi-synthetic fibre) is wrapped in a plastic film to stop the fibres shedding when it’s inside the vagina.
Tampon manufacturers now follow strict testing re absorbency and materials used in production and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says that reported cases of TSS are lower. It hasn’t gone away completely though. Women’s health expert Dr. Philip Tierno Jr, M.D, Chief of Immunology at the NY Medical Center suggests using organic (all-cotton) tampons rather than those containing synthetic fibres, to protect yourself from accumulative build up of chemicals inside the body.
Most women won’t have any problems with tampons but if you’re concerned about the health effects or have had a bad reaction to them then switch to an organic brand such as Natracare or try a menstrual cup. I’m sticking to my organic sanitary pads for now, until I work out why I felt sick, dizzy and faint after using an internal menstrual device.