It’s no secret that some for-profit corporations put profits above human health and life, add poisons to our products and our environment, and are prepared to lie about their actions. It’s also no secret that over the past twenty-five years or so, the government that is supposed to be protecting us has often abdicated its responsibility for oversight in the name of “free markets” and “deregulation.” Unfortunately, this state of affairs has led to a high, if understandable level of paranoia. In a world in which is sometimes seems that corporations deliberately go out of their way to destroy people’s health and even lives in the name of profits, a climate of distrust, fear and rumor-mongering tends to thrive. Here’s the truth: the makers of Kent cigarettes in fact did at one time use cancer-causing crocidolite asbestos in their filters, which were marketed under the brand name “micronite.”
Here’s another truth: tampons do not, nor have ever they ever, contained asbestos, despite rumors to the contrary. This is yet another “urban legend”: high-tech horror stories that are told in much the same way and for the same reasons as we shared ghost stories around the campfire as children. Several years ago–right around the time that stories of the asbestos victims of Libby, Montana, started to come out in the public media–an e-mail story began to circulate. This story suggested that tampon manufacturers were using asbestos in their product in order to cause women to bleed more profusely, which would necessitate their buying more of the product.
While there are many good reasons for women not to use tampons, asbestos is not one of them. In July of 1999, the FDA issued the following statement: “Before any tampon is marketed in the U.S., FDA reviews its design and materials. Asbestos is not an ingredient in any U.S. brand of tampon, nor is it associated with the fibers used in making tampons. Moreover, tampon manufacturing is subject to inspection by FDA to assure that good manufacturing practices are followed. Therefore these inspections would likely identify any procedures that would expose tampons…to asbestos. If any tampon product was contaminated with asbestos, it would be the result of tampering, which is a crime.” While it is arguable that corporations have brought this kind of rumor-mongering upon themselves through their behavior, it does consumers little good to buy into such rumors, which in the end only increase stress levels and blood pressure while taking away from the quality of life.