Rep. Maloney Introduces Bill to Protect Women from Toxic Shock Syndrome

Jan 30, 2008
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), a longtime women’s health advocate, has introduced “The Robin Danielson Act” (H.R. 5181), legislation that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research and determine the extent to which the presence of dioxin, synthetic fibers, and other tampon additives pose any health risks to women.  The bill also asks the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to collect and report information on Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a rare and potentially life-threatening bacterial illness which research has associated with tampon use in women.  The bill is named for a woman who died from the illness.

“American women deserve the ability to make educated decisions about a product that could potentially endanger their health and their lives,” said Rep. Maloney.  “Right now, 73 million American women use tampons, yet there is no research that unequivocally declares them safe.  Women’s health research has been put on the backburner for far too long.  It’s time federal researchers looked into this common consumer product and helped make TSS a disease of the past.” 

The EPA has released reports identifying dioxin as a “probable cancer-causing agent.”  Tampons currently sold in the United States are composed of rayon, cotton, or a combination of both.  Rayon is produced from bleached wood pulp, and the chlorine bleaching of pulp produces a by-product of dioxin.  While chlorine-free bleaching processes are available, most wood pulp manufacturers only use elemental-chlorine free bleaching processes which still use chlorine dioxide as a bleaching agent, and therefore still produce dioxin.  The EPA reports that even 100 percent cotton tampons and completely chlorine-free tampons have trace amounts of dioxin because decades of pollution have caused an infiltration of dioxin in the air, water, and ground.  Dioxin can still find its way into cotton and wood pulp products - and therefore tampons - because of this pollution.   

Currently, the reporting of TSS to the CDC is both optional and uneven.  In fact, the number of TSS cases and deaths has not been reported since 2003. 

Approximately 73 million American women use tampons.  The average woman uses 16,800 tampons over the course of her lifetime.

Rep. Maloney first introduced tampon safety legislation, “The Tampon Safety and Research Act of 1997,” in the 105th Congress.  She introduced earlier versions of “The Robin Danielson Act” in 1999, 2003, and 2005.