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SCIENCE FILE / An exploration of issues and trends
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Science Q & A

September 07, 2000

Q: An e-mail is circulating claiming that tampons contain asbestos to aggravate bleeding and increase sales, and that rayon fibers in the tampons contain dioxin, a carcinogen. True?

A: No, according to Dr. Celeste Robb-Nicholson of Harvard Medical School. The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement a year ago dismissing those rumors. Inspections show, the agency said, that "asbestos is not an ingredient in any U.S. brand of tampon, nor is it associated with the fibers used in making tampons." Rayon is made from cellulose fibers produced from wood pulp, and bleaching of the pulp can produce low levels of dioxin. But the Environmental Protection Agency has been working with wood pulp producers to encourage dioxin-free purification methods. Laboratory tests show that if dioxin is present, it is at concentrations of less than one part per trillion, far too little to be a threat.

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