Tampons are among the most popular feminine hygiene products. But rumors claim they contain asbestos, rayon, and dioxin-chemicals that are associated with cancer, Toxic Shock Syndrome, and other serious health risks. But are these fears realistic? Let's sort fact from fiction about tampon safety.

The Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulates the safety and effectiveness of all medical devices, including tampons.  They say the available scientific evidence does not support Internet rumors that tampons are dangerous when used correctly.  

Let's look at the three biggest rumors about tampons:

The Asbestos Rumor:

This rumors claims tampons contain asbestos, which causes increased bleeding. Increased bleeding means you'll buy more tampons. 

The FDA says there's no evidence of asbestos in tampons or any reports regarding increased menstrual bleeding from tampon use.  Every brand of tampons sold in the US is carefully inspected for safe design, materials and production.  Asbestos is not an ingredient in any US brand of tampon.

The Dioxin and Rayon Rumors

This scare claims that tampons contain dangerous levels of dioxin (a known pollutant consisting of a combination of chemical compounds) and rayon that could put consumers at increased risk for uterine, cervical or ovarian cancer.  This rumor is based on old information and current manufacturing techniques have made it obsolete. 

It's true that tampons contain cotton, rayon or a mix of the two.  Rayon is made from cellulose fibers from wood pulp.  The FDA says, "At one time, bleaching the wood pulp was a potential source of trace amounts of dioxin in tampons, but that bleaching method is no longer used. Rayon raw material used in U.S. tampons is now produced using elemental chlorine-free or totally chlorine-free bleaching processes." 

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has worked with wood pulp producers for decades to promote dioxin-free methods. Even so, dioxin can still be found in the air, water and ground. Today's tampon manufacturers use dioxin-free processing, but since dioxin still exists in the environment, trace amounts may make their way into the cotton and wood pulp used for tampons.

Bottom line - The FDA says.  "State-of-the art testing of tampons . . . has shown that dioxin levels are at or below the detectable limit. No risk to health would be expected from these trace amounts."

Toxic Shock Syndrome Rumors: 

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a potentially fatal disease caused by bacterial toxins.  We first became aware of it in the 1980's when hundreds of tampon-users became ill.  Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) occurs in non-menstruating people too and though scientists have studied the connection between tampon use and TSS, they're not able to identify a direct cause/effect relationship. 

The Centers for Disease Control suggested that a few specific tampon designs and high-absorbency materials may have been associated with some cases of TSS. These tampons are no longer produced or sold in the US.

An Internet rumor spread that rayon in tampons caused TSS. The FDA says, "Tampons made with rayon do not appear to have a higher risk of TSS than cotton tampons of similar absorbency."

Menstrual TSS is now considered a rare and affects only about one in 100,000 women.  The National Institutes of Health says menstrual toxic shock syndrome can be prevented:

  • Avoid use of super absorbent tampons.
  • Change tampons frequently.
  • Use tampons only once in a while (not regularly) during menstruation.



Tampons and Asbestos, Dioxin, & Toxic Shock Syndrome



National Institute of Health