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Tampons and cancer

In the last few years, you may have seen e-mails about asbestos and dioxins in tampons made in the United States. Scientific evidence shows that these rumours are not true.

These emails incorrectly say that:

  • Tampon manufacturers add asbestos to their products to cause excessive menstrual bleeding in order to sell more tampons.
  • The tampon industry believes women need bleached white products in order to view the products as pure and clean - and that bleaching leads to toxic amounts of the chemical dioxin in tampons.
  • Dr B.S. Katzenellenbogen, Professor of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Cell & Structural Biology, supports these claims.

However, there is no evidence to support any of these claims.

Health Canada regulates the safety of medical devices including tampons in Canada. In the US, this is done by the Food and Drug Administration. Neither group has found asbestos in tampons or any reports of increased bleeding from tampon use.

Tampons are made from cotton, rayon or a mix of both. Rayon is made from bleached wood pulp. In the US, rayon raw materials are now made using elemental chlorine-free or totally chlorine free bleaching processes that are dioxin free. Trace amounts of dioxin have been found in tampons using state-of-the-art testing methods. But these trace levels are at, or below, the detectable limit and are not considered a health concern for tampon users. Dioxin can be found in air, water and ground from years of pollution, so it's possible that trace amounts of dioxin are present because of the environmental sources of tampons.

Dr Katzenellenbogen is a legitimate scientist, but she does not support the claims in the e-mail and her apparent connection to it, which was written without her knowledge and approval.

For more information
US Food and Drug Administration – Tampons and Asbestos, Dioxin & Toxic Shock Syndrome

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