Medical Dangers of Conventional Tampons

Did You Know?

  • Tampons are used by up to 70% of menstruating women in the U.S. today.
  • The average woman will use 11,000 to 17,000 tampons in her lifetime.

Philip M. Tierno Jr., PhD, is a highly respected microbiologist with more than 35 years in the field of clinical and medical microbiology. He's also the author of The Secret Life of Germs: What They Are, Why We Need Them, and How We Can Protect Ourselves Against Them.

Known widely as "Dr. Germ," Dr. Tierno is an expert on Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), women’s health and the safest use of tampons. We’re proud to have Dr. Tierno as Veeda’s official medical advisor.

A message from Dr. Tierno

Following the rise in reported cases of TSS in the 1980s, 3 out of 4 of the super-absorbent synthetic fibers were banned. But most tampons still carry the highly absorbent synthetic fiber, viscose rayon, which produces toxins.

Part of the problem is that women are using tampons overnight. Tampons should stay in no longer than six hours. Without waking up to change them during the night, tampons are left in much longer than they should be.

Manufacturers have also increased the absorbent density. So tampons get absorbed into the vagina, and some (not all) of them will detox through the liver. Even trace amounts of dioxin, a by-product of the bleaching process, are cause for concern, as tampons come in contact with some of the most absorbent tissue in the body. In addition, the effects of dioxin are cumulative and can be measured 20 to 30 years after exposure. The more absorbent the tampon, the higher the chance of developing TSS.

Health Tips from Dr. Tierno

  1. Avoid super-absorbent tampons. Choose the lowest absorbency natural cotton tampon you can get away with to suit your flow, and change it at least every 4-6 hours.
  2. It’s safer to use a pad instead of leaving a tampon inserted overnight.
  3. Alternate tampons with sanitary napkins or liners during your period.

Facts About Tampons, Pads, TSS and Dioxin

Conventional tampons are commonly made from blends of bleached cotton and/or synthetic products, such as rayon, polypropylene and plastic.

Pads often contain blends of chlorine-bleached pulp that include dioxin, a substance not only linked to TSS, but also to cancer, endometriosis, immune system depression, infertility and hormone disruption.

Dioxin is a carcinogen that settles in fat cells and builds up over time.

Facts About Toxic Shock Syndrome

  • According to the FDA, more than half of the recorded cases of TSS are related to tampons, with the highest incidence occurring in women 13–24 years of age.
  • TSS can require hospitalization, often for several days in intensive care, and in extreme cases can cause death.
  • The materials in some tampons can produce Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. If these bacteria aren’t destroyed by antibodies in the bloodstream, TSS can occur.
  • Symptoms of TSS include sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, dizziness and a rash that looks like sunburn.
  • Studies have shown that 100% cotton tampons dramatically reduce TSS toxin production versus tampons with rayon or other synthetic fibers.