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EPA monitoring of ‘widespread’ chemical to continue

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is concerned about a pollutant found at many schools during a recent two-month study of air quality.

Acrolein, a pollutant deemed “widespread” by the EPA, was found at 40 of the 63 schools studied across the nation, including seven Ohio schools. Of the schools studied, acrolein was detected at three schools: Elm Street Elementary in Wauseon, Ohio; Whitwell Elementary in Ironton, Ohio; and Life Skills of Trumbull County in Warren, Ohio.

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Wood County Ozone Grade Improved

2011 State of the Air Reports rate Wood County's air and ozone a 'C.'

Previously graded a “D,” Wood County’s ozone air quality has improved to a “C” in the 2011 State of the Air Report Conducted by the American Lung Association.

Surfing the Crimson Tide: a look at feminine hygiene products

Periods happen. Since the beginning of time women have had to deal with the flow between their legs. Most American women opt for mainstream products like tampons or sanitary napkins to manage their cycles.

The mainstream feminine hygiene product industry is a booming business simply because women will always need a way to manage their cycles. According to Global Industry Analysts, a business strategies company, the world feminine hygiene products market is projected to reach $14.3 billion by the year 2015.

Bottom line, women + periods = a lot of money. But, there are alternatives to mainstream products.

Brittany Boulton is a legislative aide in Columbus, Ohio. While in college at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) she took an environmental class and learned about two alternative feminine products that changed the way she dealt with her period. “I found out about sponges and Diva Cupsin that class.”Said Boulton. She opted for the sponge because it was significantly cheaper.

“I was a little nervous because throughout the day, they need to be rinsed and I didn’t really want to deal with that in campus bathrooms. It didn’t end up being too big of a deal for me; it might be for women who have a heavier cycles and

do n’t know where the one-person restrooms/less crowded restrooms are,” Boulton said.

She said using the sponges cost her about $12 for one year as opposed to the approximately $120 per year she spent on tampons.

Aside from saving money, a big factor in Boulton making the switch in college was the chemicals she was told were in tampons. “Here in America, they actually bleach them and it’s not so healthy for vaginal tissue, which is obviously super absorbent. In Europe, tampons are natural paper but we bleach them to make them look sterile and clean,” Boulton said.

Barbara Hoffman, is a certified nurse practitioner and Associate Director of Clinical Services at the BGSU Health Center. She said there are health risks associated with using tampons. Women can suffer from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). “TSS is simply a staph bacterial infection; it usually happens when a woman is using a tampon that has a higher absorbency than she needs.” Said Hoffman.

TSS in association with Tampons began in the 1970’s around the time women began frequently using tampons. One popular tampon called Rely was said to be the cause of hundreds of cases of TSS. That brand was pulled from shelves and changed the legislation for tampon regulations… namely making it necessary for tampon manufacturers to include the tampon absorbency on the box. Aside from TSS, some believe one of the reasons the tampons were so bad for women was because they contained a lethal chemical called dioxin. The dioxin was a bi-product of the bleaching process used to sanitize the cotton in tampons.

In 1997 a Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn B. Mahoney believed there still needed to be a change in the way tampons were manufactured. She presented a piece of legislation called, “The Tampon Safety and research act of 1997.”

“Although the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] currently requires tampon manufacturers to monitor dioxin levels in their finished products, the results are not available to the public. When I — as a Member of Congress — requested the information, the FDA told me it was proprietary information and therefore could not be released. It should be noted that the dioxin tests relied upon by the FDA are done by the manufacturers themselves, who not surprisingly insist their products are safe. Some of my constituents say this is the equivalent of the fox guarding the hen house,” Mahoney said in her press release about the bill.

The bill did not become a law, and like School House Rock teaches us, it is still sittin’ on Capitol Hill.

According to the FDA, the levels of dioxin found in tampons are not harmful to women. In 2009 Representatives from the FDA made a statement about the accusations about dioxin in tampons. “State-of-the art testing of tampons and tampon materials that can detect even trace amounts of dioxin has shown that dioxin levels are at or below the detectable limit. No risk to health would be expected from these trace amounts.”

Proctor and Gamble, based in Cincinnati, manufactures Tampax, and it also made the product Rely. In a 2003 press release, the company said its products are safe.

“Tampax Tampons, Always Pads and Panty liners DO NOT contain dioxin because chl orine gas is not used in the bleaching process. We buy pulp, cotton and rayon from outside suppliers who exclusively use chlorine dioxide (not chlorine gas), oxygen and/or hydrogen peroxide in a process called ‘Elemental Chlorine Free,’ or ‘ECF’ bleaching. Chlorine dioxide has different chemical properties and reacts differently with pulp than does chlorine gas,” the company’s statement said.

The makers of a product called Diva Cup they believe women should search for other alternatives to conventional tampons and pads to protect their bodies.  The company is in Ontario,Canada and claims to have a large international client base. The product is a silicone cup that holds the liquid from menstruation. Those cups cost about $40 and can be re-used for up to one year.

“With all the state-of-the-art conveniences Western society has developed, it baffles us why outdated feminine products are still being used. We believe that reusable menstrual cups are the next generation of feminine hygiene because they are the most environmentally responsible choice. They are also the most convenient and reliable option available and are not linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome,” said Francine Chambers, a co-founder of the product, in a press release.

Not everyone is sold on the Diva Cup. Alison Bryan is an avid participant in outdoor recreational sports. She doesn’t believe it is a realistic option for women who are in an outdoor environment. Bryan said, “If I’m hiking all day it would be really hard for me to find a place to empty the cup, then I’m going to feel gross because it doesn’t seem clean.”

The makers of Diva Cup believe if used correctly the Diva Cup is more sanitary than tampons or pads.

There are many other alternativesavailable. Finding these products takes a little bit of extra work and a decision to get over what Boulton calls the “icky factor.”

Boulton concluded that not all women would use a Diva Cup or sea sponge; she just feels it is important for women to be informed on all the risks. “In the end it’s really about making better choices for you and your body,” Bolton said.

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