House Members call on NIH to research safety of feminine hygiene products

Aug 31, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and six of her House colleagues are urging the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research health risks posed by feminine hygiene products used by millions of American women. Recent independent studies led by women’s health organizations have shown that some feminine hygiene products contain additives that are harmful to a woman’s health. A recent high-profile case of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which caused model Lauren Wasser to lose her leg and suffer other severe health consequences, has drawn new scrutiny to the lack of data on the safety of feminine hygiene products. The letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins was signed by Maloney, John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

“Millions of American women use feminine hygiene products every day and yet there is still scant research on the potential health risks posed to women,” wrote Maloney and her colleagues.  “Recent independent studies by women’s health organizations have found chemicals of concern in tampons, pads and douches, including harmful chemicals, carcinogens, and reproductive toxins. This research, however, is incomplete. We need to know if diseases such as cervical cancer, endometriosis, infertility, and ovarian cancer may be linked to a woman’s use of certain feminine hygiene products. That is why we urge NIH to research these products and help ensure that they are safe for women.”

Congresswoman Maloney is also the author of the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act (H.R. 1708), directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to determine through research whether feminine hygiene products that contain dioxin, synthetic fibers, and other chemical additives like chlorine, colorants and fragrances, pose health risks.

The letter is endorsed by: Annie Appleseed Project, Liberty Feminine Care, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, NaturallySavvy, Red Web Foundation, Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

The text of the letter follows:

August 31, 2015

 

Dr. Francis S. Collins
Director
National Institutes of Health
Building 1, One Center Drive
Bethesda, MD  20892-0160

Dear Dr. Collins:

We write to urge the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to take the lead on research that would determine the extent to which the presence of dioxins, synthetic fibers, chlorine and other contaminants in tampons and other feminine hygiene products pose any risk to women using these products. NIH is the nation’s premier medical research agency that funds groundbreaking discoveries that improve health outcomes and save lives. We believe NIH research in this area can help determine risks presented by materials used in feminine hygiene products.

Recently, a tragic story involving tampons and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) reinforced the need for much more research and a better understanding of additives used in feminine hygiene products. Laura Wasser, a young woman in her twenties, suffered a massive heart attack, lost her leg and part of her foot due to TSS.

Millions of American women use feminine hygiene products every day and yet there is still scant research on the potential health risks posed to women. Recent independent studies by women’s health organizations have found chemicals of concern in tampons, pads and douches, including harmful chemicals, carcinogens, and reproductive toxins. This research, however, is incomplete. We need to know if diseases such as cervical cancer, endometriosis, infertility, and ovarian cancer may be linked to a woman’s use of certain feminine hygiene products. That is why we urge NIH to research these products and help ensure that they are safe for women.

In addition to this request for more research, we also write to inquire about NIH’s past research into these matters. Can you please detail what research related to women’s health and feminine hygiene product safety NIH has completed?

Since being established in 1990, NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) has contributed to many medical advances for women. We hope ORWH will thoroughly research the health effects of chemical additives in feminine hygiene products as part of its research agenda. Women deserve to know that these products are safe and be provided with information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. We encourage you to protect the health of women everywhere through this valuable research.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,

CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress

JOHN CONYERS JR.
​Member of Congress

DEBBIE DINGELL
​Member of Congress                                                            

RAÚL M. GRIJALVA
​Member of Congress


BARBARA LEE
​Member of Congress                                                                  

SHEILA JACKSON LEE
​Member of Congress

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN
​Member of Congress