Break the Chain Pearls Aren't a Girl's Best Friend

Created 7/18/2003, last updated 4/29/2004 (6/4/2004) Few consumers products have attracted as much attention about possible side effects as tampons - and rightfully so. Outbreaks of toxic shock syndrome in the '70's and '80's left many women wary of the hygiene product, and that fear primes the pump for 'real-life' horror stories such as this one.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Subject: FW: Warning regarding a feminine product!

Dear ladies,

I know this subject is rather embarrassing, but I was glad my sister passed this message to me, and I hope you will send it along to other women, too.

Jean

A woman I work with started using the new Tampax Pearl 5 months ago and that's when she started getting yeast infections. They got worse and worse every month and being experienced with yeast infections, she used over-the-counter treatments. They didn't help. She finally went to her doctor, who did a PAP Smear, which didn't reveal anything.

As it got worse, she finally went to her OB-Gyn, who also did a PAP Smear. It didn't test positive, but bacteria showed up. She was then given a prescription to treat a yeast infection and went home. She went back as it got worse and also when, one day while using the bathroom, a clump of something came out. She had no idea what it was initially and threw it away. She quickly thought better of it and wrapped it up and brought it with her in a Ziploc baggie to yet another visit to the doctor. She had figured out what it was herself and the doctor confirmed it. It was the Tampax Pearl fibers. They had been collecting for the past 5 months! ! She even took an unopened tampon and showed me how the fibers come off so easily. You wouldn\'t notice because the applicator covers it. And how many people open up a tampon and inspect them?

Well, it hasn't ended yet. When she went in last, the doctor went to get some cultures, but found that her cervix was bleeding and it prevented her from getting all the cultures that she needed. The fibers from the tampon are cutting her and making her bleed. But the blood is having a hard time getting out and so there was a lot of old blood in the way when the doctor tried to take the cultures. Right now, she is not being treated for anything, not until they can figure out how to treat her. Poor woman is uncomfortable and in pain! Most likely, they'll have to do a D&C; (did I use the right letters?) to clean it all out. Another girl that I work with also has been using them for a few months and has been having problems, but couldn't figure it out.

She won't be using them anymore.

I have used a few, just to try them, but will be throwing out any that I have left. I am also going to go home and inspect my regular tampons to see if fibers come off of those also. By the way, my friend's doctor is writing a letter to the company and my friend is looking into filing a lawsuit. This is affecting her in every aspect of her life.

She is also very afraid now of TSS. She told me and every woman she knows in order to get the word out, so no one else has to go through this. I said I'd spread the word. I know a yeast infection is an awful thing to experience, but this is so much worse!

Ladies,

Spread the word and take care!

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

While most health advisories like this are based on true events, the way they are constructed and the fallibility of e-mail as a tool to spread information instantly make them the stuff of urban legend. There's probably little reason to doubt its authenticity, but due to the fact that the author did not anticipate the implications of a chain e-mail, it already demonstrates several of the earmarks of a legend:

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  • It is a third person's retelling of something that happened to an unnamed "woman I work with."

  • It's not dated.

  • We do not conclusively know the author's identity or credentials for reliably relaying this information.

  • The conclusion that the product is dangerous is the subject's own supposition and not based on a medically conclusive diagnosis

  • It generalizes a single experience to the public at large.

A spokesperson for Procter and Gamble, told BreakTheChain.org that the claims in the letter are unfounded and that the safety of their consumers is paramount:

The safety of our consumers is very important to us and we're especially concerned when rumors circulate about the use of our products. It is important for people to understand that the allegation that fibers left behind in the vagina from Tampax Pearl causes yeast infections and other problems is simply not true.

It is widely recognized in the medical literature that the use of tampons does not promote yeast infections. Yeast infections are caused by a form of yeast commonly found in the vagina known as Candida. Yeast infections can be recurrent and difficult to treat.

Because we take the safety of our products seriously, we are diligently looking into the matter. Here are the reasons that we are confident in the safety of Tampax Pearl.

Tampax Pearl is made out of the same fibers (materials) that have been used safely by millions of Tampax users for over 25 years.

Before marketing Pearl, we completed an extensive safety program, which included a thorough review of safety data by an external board of scientific and medical experts. The FDA and its scientists also reviewed our safety data before granting authorization to market Tampax Pearl in the U.S. Bottom line: It is as safe to use as other tampons.

Fibers can come off of any tampon. This is well known and does not represent the health risks alleged in the e-mail. The natural cleansing process of the vagina removes these fibers within a short time (a day or two). Clinical testing confirms that there are no safety or health concerns if this happens.

The woman who authored this e-mail contacted BreakTheChain.org and requested that her name be removed from this site, despite the fact that her name and contact information remains on more popular versions of this chain. She did not get her employer's permission to send the message above using the company (Ford) e-mail system and was summarily dismissed for violation of the their computer use policy. Procter & Gamble, the makers of Tampax and Pearl, contacted Ford for validation of her identity and threatened legal action against her and her employer.

The original sender's name has dropped of some versions of this one and, in some cases, has been replaced by another unwitting soul's contact information in a case of False Attribution Syndrome. Anyone who forwards it runs the risk of being mistaken for its originator and encountering the same consequences she did.

Several women have contacted BreakTheChain.org to relate similar personal health horror stories that they attribute to recent switches to the Tampax Pearl. While their cases are verifiable, the evidence linking their ailments to the new tampons is still shaky at best. Nonetheless, these additional testimonials may indicate a need for more research on the subject. But such research will not be proffered by e-mailed rumors.

BreakTheChain.org recommends against relying upon or forwarding health advice and warnings via e-mail chain letters. The medium is unreliable and the potential for misinformation is huge. If you have a health concern, your best resource has always been, and continues to be your personal physician. It's probably only a matter of time before some well-meaning forwarder sees a perceived connection between this message and a now-legendary warning that tampons contain asbestos and cause cancer. Break this chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: To Your Health
References: Tampax Pearl FAQs, Snopes.com

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