New this week: Asbestos, dioxin, viscose rayon: Tampon safety (which includes the news item below) - Pursettes tampon cartoon ad - menstrual humor


It's Too Late to Call Your Congressman About the Proposed Tampon Safety and Research Act! Congress Had More Important ;) Things To Do. Here's How and Why for Next Time.

Asbestos and Tampons: An Expert Answers Our Questions

In the past two weeks I received three widely disseminated e-mails alleging that tampons contained asbestos, among other claims. I thank Tannie Huang of Harvard University and Willi Nolan of Terra Femme for sending these messages my way.

I asked MUM board member and expert on menstrual products safety Dr. Philip Tierno, Jr., chief of clinical microbiology and immunology at the New York University Medical Center, to tell us what he thinks about these assertions.

Dr.Tierno appeared in the film Under Wraps, discussed near the bottom of this page, where he discusses safety problems with tampons. A film festival in New York will be showing it three times in early November (see an item toward the bottom of this page.) He receives no funding from menstrual products companies for his research.

Here are Dr. Tierno's replies; I have formulated questions to raise points in the e-mail:

Dear Harry,

Let me answer your question after I build a little foundation so that one can more easily assess the asbestos problem.

Asbestos is a ubiquitous fibrous mineral silicate (including chrysotite, amosite, anthophyllite, and crocilite).This material was widely used, particularly during the 1930s through the 60s, in construction because of its strength and ability to insulate. Although it was recognized as a health hazard by the Romans more than 2000 years ago the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S. government] didn't regulate it until 1974. In 1989 the EPA ordered a phase out of its use. Unfortunately an appeals court overturned them in 1991.

There is no doubt that asbestos fibers cause cancer, especially lung cancers (including mesothelioma), as well as cancers of the mouth, the stomach, intestines, rectum, kidney, etc. The usual route of exposure to humans is by inhalation. You can be exposed to the risk of asbestos by inhaling any airborne fibers of this material.

That is critical to an understanding of risk of asbestos from tampon use.

It is entirely possible for there to be trace quantities of asbestos in wood pulp or paper products, including tampons. In my opinion it's possible (I know of no scientific studies on asbestos in tampons [That is why Rep. Carolyn Maloney's Tampon Safety and Research Act, mentioned at the top of the page, is so important.]) that trace quantities of asbestos may be found in tampons but I do not believe that it would be of significant quantity to be delivered into the lungs of a user of tampons or even to the vaginal mucosa.

Keep in mind asbestos is even in water supplies, in the air and elsewhere in the environment. Ideally it would be nice to have a product that is free of asbestos. The OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. government] standard for fibers greater than 0.005 mm in length is two million fibers/meter cubed per cubic centimeter of air.

Question: Do companies put asbestos in tampons so that women will bleed more and buy more tampons?

That is absurd. I have been privy to every major manufacturer's secret documents because of my role in TSS [toxic shock syndrome] litigation and I can say that that supposition is not true!

Question: What about dioxin, which causes cancer, in menstrual products?

In my opinion, our goal should be NO dioxin in tampons. I am not aware of any scientific study that measures and compares dioxin levels of different tampon brands.

Re: Tampax's deductively arrived-at statement that their tampons contain no dioxin because of their bleaching process [I sent Dr. Tierno an e-mail message, allegedly from the manufacturer of Tampax, which said Tampax contains no dioxin]. While in all fairness that is a possibility, the proof is in the testing! Testing of all tampons for dioxin should be done. [Again, that is why Rep. Carolyn Maloney's Tampon Safety and Research Act, mentioned at the top of the page, is so important.] Some dioxins may be present for reasons other than from the bleaching process, e.g., from pesticides or fertilizers, etc. Nothing beats actual testing.

Question: And what about viscose rayon, which has probably been in most tampons since the beginning of commercial tampons?

There is no question, in my opinion, that an all-cotton tampon is superior to viscose rayon because of viscose rayon's ability to amplify TSST-1 [toxic shock syndrome toxin-1] while cotton does not amplify such to any significant amount.

[See the MUM pages on the infamous Rely tampon, focus of the toxic shock problem around 1980.]

Roseanne Cancels Show on Menstruation

Almost a month ago I mentioned that the Roseanne Show was going to televise a tour of this museum.

Three days before the scheduled shoot a producer left me a late-night phone message, saying only that that show, devoted to menstruation, had been canceled.

I wonder if was because of the subject matter.

That's show biz!

By the way, the Canadian show I mentioned in the same news item went great; Canadians will see it late this year.

Wash Wild Witch Washables

Lauren Sherer sent your MUM samples of her unbleached organic flannel washable menstrual pads (one is at left) that she sells through her mail-order catalog (the catalog costs $1 from P.O. Box 431, Brookdale, California, 95007 U.S.A.).

If you need an unusual size she'll make them to order for you in a variety of patterns.

See her variety of items! She takes a check or money order.

Do you have something "menstrual" to sell, like these pads? Send me info and samples and I will put them here - free.

Letters to Your MUM

This writer chastised me for having nothing on this site about the painful disease endometriosis. But this is actually a cultural rather than medical site; I try to fit in medical information when I can.

Recently, covering medical news has been too much for me to do - of course, here I am talking about the health problems of asbestos (above), etc.! - especially since it's available on other sites (see an item below and Netconnect [links]). The cultural information on this site is harder to find elsewhere on the 'Net, so I concentrate on that.

And I'm no doctor.

Nevertheless, this is valuable information she sends:

Dear Mr. Finley,

I have just visited your site, and am surprised and amazed that you have not mentioned anything about painful periods, let alone endometriosis. [Actually I do have some information in the Science of Menstruation page - the second item, for instance, is a relief for pelvic pain from Johns Hopkins - but the page is not well organized.]

Endometriosis is a condition that affects millions of women around the world - all whom suffer from THE worst periods and pains - which are indescribable.

Dedicating a page to menstruation, I have to confess, is slightly worrying, especially as it is from a man's point of view - about quirky advertisements, and "celebrating" our womanhood, and menstruation.

Hasn't it crossed your mind that there are millions of women out there who cannot "celebrate" or feel happy that they are having a period?

Painful periods are common enough, let alone endometriosis.

I feel that if you are going to dedicate a site to menstruation, you should include some of the REAL facts of life, and not just pages from women who are "enjoying their bleeding day."

Here are some links to some pages about endometriosis, written by women who suffer from the disease.

We are not being paranoid about this disease, nor are we being hysterical. This disease is horrific - and can create mayhem in people's lives.

It isn't life threatening like cancer - but it can be just as debilitating, and life ruining.

Please visit these pages, and take a look at what is going on in the real world.

I hope that you will include endometriosis in your pages in the future - as it is something that is happening to a lot of us, and yet it still remains unrecognized.

I would be grateful if you were to help it become more recognized.

And now for some links: Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain - Antonia's Story Carey's Endo Place Mendo A Twist of Fate Birgit's Story Heather's Home Page Endo Awareness Mary's Unofficial Endo Support Ruth's Page - Endometriosis & Dioxin (Including Dioxin in Tampons) Television Documentary on Endometriosis Endometriosis Association Endo Awareness OXEGENE Study Endometriosis Care Center Home Page The Godzone Endo Zone! St. Charles Medical Center THE CANADIAN CONSENSUS CONFERENCE ON ENDOMETRIOSIS What is endometriosis?--thrive@health Endometriosis: Medical Treatment.--thrive@health How to Diagnose Endometriosis and Thrive FAQ's About Endo Dr. Cook's Endo and Pelvic Pain Page Endometriosis: How to cope with pain and thrive net articles Endo by Mary Lou Ballweg World Congress on Endo" Net Endo Pavilion

These are just a few of the sites put together by women suffering from endo - one site, Mendo, is written by the husband of Carey, and explains how it can affect husbands, partners and other men in the family.

I hope that I will hear from you soon.

I am sorry if I have been brash with you, but I am just amazed that endo hasn't been mentioned at all in your pages.

Thank you for your time.

Here's another source for information on medical issues with menstruation:

I would be pleased if you would consider Woman's Diagnostic Cyber as a link in your web site.

The women's health news page about abnormal menses at:

might be appropriate as well as the differential diagnosis listing of abnormal menstruation at:

for your links.

I will be mentioning your museum in this week's newsletter, (archives at

I think your Web site is great!


Frederick R. Jelovsek MD, MS

See a site in Dutch about birth control and the temperature method of determining ovulation time


My site about a woman's cycle and also the temperature method is the first site all in Dutch.

I have already had e-mail from a woman who appreciated this information in Dutch. Because there are a lot of Dutch women living in America, Canada, and Australia maybe it is a good idea to have my site linked to yours.

The address:

Please take a look.

My email: or

Thank you!


Paula Voet

A site visitor offers advice about menstrual cups:

Dear Mr. Finley,

Thank you for a very informative site! As a user of all three types of menstrual fluid catchers I would like to add some comments that may or may not help other users which were not mentioned in some of the letters posted.

Provided The Keeper fits the wearer OK, trimming the extra rubber and then using a nail file to buff the edge down is a great way to conceal it and increase the comfort. Also, my experience shows me that the Keeper is best for wearing after the first two heavy flow days which I experience and best not to lie down or "curl" up in a fetal position on a couch because it will break the seal or the blood itself will find a way to seep out!

The Instead is ideal for lying down, strenuous movement, sex, "curling" up on the couch without fear of leakage once a woman learns how to "burp" the seal! I figured this one out on my own as I am able to suck in water while in a bathtub or hot tub and also push the water out forcefully from my vagina. This is what you do, put the Instead in and after pushing it back into position, "burp" it by pushing gently on the pink ring and bearing down simultaneously. You will hear the air hiss out and once it stops, double check the position and you should have a good solid seal. I reuse my Instead and have used the same one for about a year and a half now, I clean it each time I empty it by washing it in the same way I wash my diaphragm. If it were to break, I would simply open a new one!. After the cycle, I soak it in a bowl of antibacterial soap and dish washing soap, then I really rinse it off good and put it in the cloth baggie with the Keeper.

Diaphragm use is comparable to the Instead with the difference being that it is necessary to empty it more frequently on the first and second days, and wash with unscented gentle cleanse soap per instructions for care of that type of rubber! I don't use my diaphragm anymore for menstruation because the cups serve the purpose best and besides, the diaphragms really take on a brownish stain from the menstrual cycles!

Hope these words of user experience help out!

Thanks for a great site!


The Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival in New York to Show Under Wraps

Penny Wheelwright, producer and writer for the great film about menstruation today (read more here), writes that the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival at The American Museum of Natural History in New York City will show it on these dates: Sunday, November 8th at 3:30 pm; Monday, November 9th at 7:30 pm and Wednesday, November 11th at 9:00 pm.

The Canadian all-women Starry Night Productions made Under Wraps and it appeared several times on Canadian television. This museum makes up a small section.

See it!!

Reminder: The Museum Closes Until 7 November, But This Site Marches On

Read more about this.

Do You Have Irregular Menses?

If so, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome.

Jane Newman, Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine, asked me to tell you that

Irregular menses identify women at high risk for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which exists in 6-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is a major cause of infertility and is linked to diabetes.

Learn more about current research on PCOS at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University - or contact Jane Newman.

If you have fewer than six periods a year, you may be eligible to participate in the study!

See more medical and scientific information about menstruation.

New this week: Asbestos, dioxin, viscose rayon: Tampon safety (which includes the news item below) - Pursettes tampon cartoon ad - menstrual humor


PREVIOUS NEWS | newest news | first page | contact the museum

Take a short tour of MUM! (and on Web video!) - FAQ - Future of this museum - Tampon Safety Act - Visit or contact the actual museum - Board of Directors - Norwegian menstruation exhibit - The media and the MUM - Menstrual odor - Prof. Mack C. Padd: Fat Cat - The science and medicine of menstruation - Early tampons - Books about menstruation - Menstrual cups: history, comments - A Note from Germany/Neues aus Deutschland und Europa - Letters - Links

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