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Seventh Generation

Behold, the humble tampon! An innovation so essential and effective that Consumer Reports named it one of the "50 small wonders" to revolutionize lives of consumers.

If you're a woman of reproductive age, there's a good chance a tampon has come in handy for you at least once. Image by iStock.


Historians credit the invention of modern applicator tampons to Earl Cleveland Haas, who patented the Tampax tampon in 1931 and sold his ideas to a sales conglomerate in 1934. But Haas was hardly the first person to think of internal solutions to managing menstruation. Women have been making their own tampons for hundreds — if not thousands — of years. Ancient Egyptian women used soft pieces of papyrus; Roman women used wool; Equatorial African women used bundles of soft grass. It seems as soon as women reach reproductive age, they're looking for ways — other than pads — to hide menstruation from everyone else.

That's one of the things that makes tampons so unique. They are discreet, super portable, and undetectable under clothing. They have a small waste footprint and, once governments finish getting rid of ridiculous luxury taxes, will be available for the same cost as pads.

Pads from the 1950s could also double as floatation devices in the event of an aircraft water landing.*

*This is not true, it just feels like it could be.

But for as long as they’ve been available commercially, tampons have been the subject of concern and controversy.

It’s not surprising why. Using a tampon is deeply personal. It is closer to our body than anything else, and our use of it implies a massive amount of trust and good faith.

Which is why when stories come out about tampons being unsafe, they really resonate.

To understand some of the historical context around our relationship with tampons, we need to head back to the 1970s.

It was a magical era of liberation, disco, and using high-tech synthetic fabrics in absolutely everything — even tampons.

In 1975, Proctor and Gamble started test-marketing Rely, a tampon made, for the very first time, without cotton or rayon. Instead, Rely substituted a mix of synthetic fibers to create a super high-absorbency product promising women more freedom by allowing them to wear a single tampon for up to a day.

Rely made bold claims, and they should have been tested. But right at the same time, Congress reclassified tampons from "cosmetic products" to "medical devices" in order to impose stricter regulations. Somehow, Rely managed to slip through the cracks.

In 1978, the Berkeley Women's Health Collective raised concerns about Rely tampons, particularly over how their synthetic ingredients could damage vaginal walls and create a breeding ground for bacteria.

Sadly, their fears were warranted. By 1980, toxic shock syndrome caused by high-absorbency tampons, including Rely, had killed 38 women and sickened more than 800 others across the United States.

Since then, there’ve been big changes in how tampons are made and regulated.

Tampons sold in America aren't made with synthetic fabrics or additives anymore — only with cotton, rayon (absorbent cellulose fibers made from bleached wood pulp), or a blend of the two.

For some people, that's still cause for concern. The issue you've probably heard the most about is dioxin — a byproduct of chlorine bleaching that the EPA recognizes as highly toxic and cancer-causing — and which may be found in trace amounts in some tampons. However, the FDA assures consumers that on their own, these minuscule amounts of dioxin aren't a risk to human health.

Image by iStock.

Tampon manufacturers are required by the FDA to list a bunch of information on their packaging, including information about absorbency and the risk of toxic shock syndrome, but absolutely nothing about ingredients. Any tampon companies who list the ingredients in their products are doing so voluntarily. For that, we thank them, but many people also wish there were strong ingredient disclosure regulations for even more peace of mind.

In the last few decades, there's been a lot of progress on destigmatizing periods and making "that time of the month" more manageable for women.


Sorry, Brick. This is — thankfully — absolutely not true.

It's understandable and encouraging that women are paying so much attention to and asking questions about what they're putting in their bodies. Think of it this way: The average woman's reproductive life lasts for 40 years, or about 480 periods. If she exclusively uses tampons, that adds up to an estimated 9,600 to 11,000 tampons.

With an increase in conversations around periods, there's also been an increase in options. Women have dozens of choices for managing blood flow during their periods — everything from super-absorbent underwear to silicon cups to organic tampons and everything in between. It all comes down to your preference and comfort level.

In the meantime, let's keep talking about our periods! The more open we all are about menstruation, the better.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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