Dear Ms. Paltrow,
It was less than 48 hours ago that I responded to your posting on porous rocks for the vagina and yet here we are again addressing another fact-deficient and potentially harmful bit of gynecological advice from GOOP. I feel as if I am being trolled, although that’s probably just wishful thinking as I doubt very much you or your sister doyennes care what a board certified OB/GYN has to say about the upper or lower genital tracts. After all there are naturopaths to ask!
Okay, let me science it up for you.
There are no toxins in tampons. Really. I can say this with 100% certainty as a toxin is a preformed poisonous substance made by an organism, think botulinum toxin or the bee venom that you have used to reset your humors. It’s shame Dr. Maggie Ney N.D., your naturopath, couldn’t set you straight on that lede.
The post zeroed in quickly on the herbicide glyphosate, because apparently Monsanto ruins everything even vaginas. Your post states that the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” however, that’s been clarified because massive amounts of many things are harmful but realistic daily doses are often not. This is what the WHO actually says:
Several carcinogenicity studies in mice and rats are available. The Meeting concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic in rats but could not exclude the possibility that it is carcinogenic in mice at very high doses. In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the Meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.
You know what is definitely carcinogenic? Alcohol. You may wish to rethink all those cocktail recipes on GOOP. #JustSaying.
OK, back to the vagina.
Small amounts of glyphosate may be in cotton, although the herbicide is applied before the cotton fibers even form on the plant. Finding peer reviewed studies with the actual amount of glyphosate in cotton isn’t easy. One non peer-reviewed study found 4 micrograms/kg of menstrual products. A regular tampon and applicator weighs around 6.5 g (finding the actual weight of a dry tampon was also hard!) and since I don’t know the weight of the applicator let’s just round up (bad pun!) and use 0.0065 kg. As 4 X 0.0065 is 0.026 a regular tampon has about 0.026 micrograms of glyphosate. I will make an educated guess that a super plus tampon is double the weight, so about 0.052 micrograms of glyyphosate. On a heavy day a woman might use six super plus tampons, so the potential maximum daily exposure is 0.312 micrograms of glyphosate (0.000312 mg). Obviously, on many days fewer or smaller tampons may be used and if any glyphosate is absorbed it is likely only from the surface.
The European Food Safety Authority’s acceptable daily intake of glyphosate from food is 0.5 mg/kg body weight per day (the United States is 1.75 mg/kg) so a 50 kg woman (smaller than the average American) can safely eat 25 mg of glyphosate a day with the lower European limit. Math may not be Dr. Ney’s strong suit so Id like to point out that 0.000312 mg is way less than 25 mg. In fact, a lifetime of heavy tampon use doesn’t approach the amount allowed for one day of oral intake.
Let’s look at the shade Dr. Ney throws to the FDA and dioxins. Sure the FDA says the minute levels of dioxin in tampons are safe but, “All that said, I do feel that tampon companies underestimate the effects of dioxin.” Now let’s look at the facts. At one point the bleaching of wood-pulp used for rayon was a source of dioxin exposure, but that process isn’t used today. This is what the FDA says about dioxin (it’s a longish quote but as you are so interested I thought it might be more helpful than innuendo):
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked with wood pulp producers to promote use of dioxin-free methods because dioxin is an environmental pollutant. Because of decades of pollution, dioxin can be found in the air, water and ground. Therefore, while the methods used for manufacturing tampons today are considered to be dioxin-free processes, traces of dioxin may still be present in the cotton or wood pulp raw materials used to make tampons. Thus, there may be trace amounts of dioxin present from environmental sources in cotton, rayon, or rayon/cotton tampons.
…dioxin levels in the rayon raw materials for tampons are reported to be at or below the detectable limit of the state-of-the-art dioxin assay, i.e., approximately 0.1 to 1 parts per trillion. FDA’s risk assessment indicates that this exposure is many times less than normally present in the body from other environmental sources, so small that any risk of adverse health effects is considered negligible. A part per trillion is about the same as one teaspoon in a lake fifteen feet deep and a mile square.
As for GMO proteins entering the blood stream from tampons? What proteins? What specific harm do you think they will do? How are they absorbed au naturel as typically larger molecules like proteins need some help with abssorption especially in minute doses?
Speaking of harm, you know what is actually harmful? Dr. Ney’s advice to use sea sponges! The Food and Drug Administration tested twelve “menstrual sponges” at the University of Iowa and they contained sand, grit, bacteria, and “various other materials.” Another batch was tested by the Baltimore district laboratory and in addition to the sand, grit and bacteria they also found yeast and mold. One sample contained Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that causes toxic shock syndrome). As the FDA notes there is least one case of toxic shock syndrome associated with the sea sponge and another possible one.
If women want to use “natural” tampons that is obviously their choice and many women do so for a variety of reasons, but alarming women because of “chemicals” is wrong medically and ethically. Telling women to use seas sponges is potentially dangerous. We can identify trace amounts of glycosate and dioxin in tampons not because the cotton and rayon that was used was first steeped in a swill of McChemicals, but rather there are trace amounts everywhere and our tests are really, really good. If glyphosate is a concern for any woman it is far better for her to think about her food choices than tampons. For women who want the most environmentally friendly choice excellent options are a menstrual cup, Thinx, or reuseable/washable cotton pads.
In a great and tragic irony Dr. Ney, so blinded by the false idols of glycophosate and dioxin, neglected to discuss the very real and dangerous toxin associated with tampon use, toxic shock syndrome. It has been also been described with a menstrual cup. You can read more on the risks here.
Dearest Gwyneth, tampons are not toxic but your carefully curated advice most certianly is.
Dr. Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM, ABPMR (pain)