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Vice recently wrote an article about 24 yr. old Lauren Wasser, and her traumatic experience using tampons.

Her period started October 3rd, 2012 and it was like any other she’s had, so she went down to her local drug store and bought the same tampons she normally used, Kotex Natural Balance. Lauren says that she typically changed her tampons multiple times a day.

Later that night she was not feeling well so she decided to sleep, only to be awoken by the police later the next day. Her mother had them come check on her because no one had heard from Lauren. She called her mom and told her she just needed to sleep.

She went back to sleep, only to awaken in a hospital days later. When her mother didn’t hear from her the following day she sent over a friend and police. They found her face down on her bedroom floor.

Lauren was rushed to the hospital with a fever of 107 degrees, she was nearly dead. She suffered a massive heart attack and organ failure. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing the issue so they called in an infectious disease specialist and he immediately asked, “Does she have a tampon in?”

She did, so they sent the tampon in for testing. It turns out the tampon tested positive for toxic shock syndrome.

“Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections.” –Mayo Clinic 

(A tampon alone is not enough to cause TSS—a person must already have Staphylococcus aureus present in his or her body. About 20 percent of the general population carries the bacteria.) 

Tampons have been in use for about 50 years but the materials used in them have changed. When they were first manufactured they contained mostly cotton, but are now made with synthetic ingredients like rayon and plastic, especially among the big tampon manufacturers—Playtex, Tampax, Kotex. These synthetic materials create the perfect storm for TSS.

According to a study conducted by the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “the gelled carboxymethylcellulose” in Rely tampons “acted like agar in a petri dish, providing a viscous medium on which the bacteria could grow.” –Vice

Dr. Philip M. Tierno is a professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU School of Medicine. He has conducted independent research on the connection between TSS and tampons. He concludes:

“Most major tampon manufacturers make tampons with either mixes of viscose rayon and cotton, or pure viscose rayon, and in either case those tampons provide optimal physical-chemical conditions necessary to cause the production of the TSST-1 toxin if a toxigenic strain of Staphylococcus aureus is part of the normal vaginal flora in a woman,” he says. “Toxic shock syndrome may result if a woman has no antibody to the toxin or low antibody. Therefore the synthetic ingredients of a tampon are a problem, whereas 100 percent cotton tampons provide the lowest risk, if any risk at all.”

The doctors told Lauren’s mother to prepare for her death because her infections turned to gangrene and her situation was not looking good. Luckily, the doctors were able to save her but not without having to amputate her right leg.

Lauren is suing the Kimberly-Clark Corporation for manufacturing toxic tampons.

Before this terrible event occurred Lauren was working towards becoming a professional model and had a full ride to a Division I school for basketball. Currently she is still pursuing her dream of being a model and when asked if she would still play basketball she replied,”If you have game, you have game forever.”

There are safer options for your period like Diva Cups, which contain no harmful chemicals and they can be reused (read instructions on cleaning and reusing). This saves money, waste, and most importantly it is much safer than toxic tampons. Another option is to use pads. IF you are going to use tampons the safest way to do so it to make sure they are made from cotton and contain no harmful chemicals, and always read the warning label.

Afterthought: 

We have been receiving a lot of feedback about this article. Let us be clear, tampons do NOT contain TSS when they are brand new, they are associated with being one factor in causing TSS. TSS is very rare but very serious. Tampon companies do offer this warning:

Tampon use has been associated with toxic shock syndrome. TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. Read and save the enclosed information. Use for eight hours maximum.

(h/t: Vice)

Thanks to Expanded Consciousness for this article