Let's talk tampons and everything that is — and isn't — in them.

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.

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Seventh Generation

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

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Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

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