Menstruation& health are tampons really harmless?

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A woman has her period for about 2000 days in her life. Many then resort to tampons. But what is the hygiene product actually made of? Three tampon myths in check.

By: Christina Schmitt and Julia Schweinberger

"Safe and clean" – that’s how THE invention was advertised in the 1950s: The tampon. Today it is impossible to imagine daily life without the tampon. Most women in Germany use it regularly. Thus, a woman consumes up to 12.000 tampons in her lifetime. But is it really harmless? After all, women wear the tampon inside them for several hours a day, directly on the particularly sensitive mucous membranes.
If you do some research on the Internet, you will quickly find that others are also concerned about this issue. And there are many prejudices around the tampon. Some media and websites even warn against it. But what is true? Here the three most important myths in the check.

Myth 1: Tampons are carcinogenic.

The blog "Erdbeerwoche" from Vienna, among others, deals with harmful substances in tampons. The creator of the blog, Bettina Steinbrugger, runs educational projects that are funded by the Austrian government, among others. She thinks women should rather think about what they are using and criticizes: the pollutant limit of tampons is the same as that of handkerchiefs.

"From our point of view, it makes a difference whether I blow my nose into a handkerchief for a few seconds or whether I actually wear a product like a tampon on my mucous membranes for several days every month."

Bettina Steinbrugger, Strawberry

We must dare to take a closer look at a taboo subject like menstruation and talk about the ingredients of hygiene products.

An ordinary tampon is made of viscose. The ribbon made of plastic or cotton. Critics caution: In a cotton thread could, unless it is an organic tampon, Glyphosate to be found and in the tampon wadding Dioxin. Both are suspected of being carcinogenic.

Carcinogenic substances? oko-Test and BfR have examined tampons

okotest from Frankfurt has more detailed information. There, dioxin was already found in several tampon brands in 2009. A recent, new study is from 2017. Jurgen Stellpflug, editor-in-chief of okotest, gives the all-clear.

"Except for one case – where we found halogen-organic compounds, all the tampons we examined are free of harmful substances."

Jurgen Stellpflug, okotest, Frankfurt

Tampon manufacturers have made improvements since the last test in 2009, Stellpflug said, so that almost all tampon brands have been tested with an very good have been evaluated.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment also regularly checks to what extent products could be harmful to health. In response to a question from BR on the subject, it writes:

"Pesticide residues cannot be ruled out. . The BfR ( . ) concluded that the levels measured did not pose a health risk."

Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, BfR

Residues cannot be ruled out – but they are now so rare and small that it is unlikely to get cancer from tampons.
Conclusion: Myth 1 has not been confirmed.

Myth 2: Tampons can be deadly

US model Lauren Wasser almost died if her legs had not been amputated. Because of a tampon she got the so-called toxic shock syndrome. Kill tampons?Doctor Helga Schwarz from the Pro Familia advice center can explain in more detail how dangerous toxic shock syndrome really is. It occurs, for example, when people wear tampons for too long. Then toxins can be released, which spread extremely quickly in the body.

"That may first look like the flu or a skin rash. And then it goes relatively rapidly: it can continue with diarrhea and vomiting and circulatory weakness."

Helga Schwarz, physician, Pro Familia Munich

In the worst case it leads to death. However, Schwarz gives the all-clear: Toxic shock syndrome is a very rare disease that not only women who wear tampons can get, but also men and children.

"Such toxins can be released via any suppurating wound. And it is a very rare phenomenon at that."

Helga Schwarz, doctor, Pro Familia Munich

You can further minimize the risk by changing tampons every six hours.
Conclusion: Although the myth is true. But the probability of dying from a tampon is very low.

Myth 3: Tampons harm the vaginal flora

A problem that occurs mainly at the end of the period. The tampon does not absorb properly, so that absorbent cotton residues remain when it is pulled out. How much do tampons harm the vaginal environment??

"You have to imagine, tampons not only soak up blood, but also fluid that normally lines the vaginal walls. This dries out and can then lead to the mucous membrane being more susceptible to infections or fungi after the period."

Helga Schwarz, doctor, Pro Familia Munich

Home remedy for fungal infections: Tampon soaked in yogurt.

A home remedy to prevent fungal infections: Use a tampon soaked in yogurt after your period.
Conclusion: Myth 3 confirmed!

Alternatives to tampons: natural sponge and menstrual cup

Two out of three myths have not been confirmed. So for now, women don’t have to worry about carcinogens in tampons or toxic shock syndrome. If you still want to say goodbye to the tampon, there are many alternatives besides conventional pads, such as the menstrual cup or a natural sponge. Not only are they more durable than a tampon – but they also save a lot of waste.

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