Thursday, October 27, 2005


Tampax is a popular tampon produced by Tambrands, Inc. (which is in turn owned by Proctor & Gamble). It was the very first tampon produced with an applicator. The then-novel double cardboard tube applicator design was patented by Dr. Earle Haas of Denver, Colorado in 1936. He sold his patent to a local businesswoman named Gertrude Tenderich. She then started the Tampax company and served as its first president.

Today, Tampax produces tampons in junior, regular, super, and super plus absorbencies, and you can obtain their tampons with either a plastic or cardboard applicator. Some types also come with deodorant.

Tampax are ubiquitous enough that many women refer to tampons in general as Tampax, much as people refer to paper tissues as Kleenex.

In 1994, a class action lawsuit was launched against Tambrands based on evidence that the rayon fibers in their tampons promote toxic shock syndrome, a potentially deadly systemic infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This suit appears to still be wending its way through the court system. Other controversy has erupted based on evidence that the bleached fibers in the tampons contain dioxin, which has been linked to breast cancer and immune system problems.

Tampax -- along with most other major tampon manufacturers -- generated ill will because of their initial reaction when toxic shock was being identified as a tampon-related problem in the early 1980s. Instead of trying to improve their product to protect the health of their customers, their first act was to threaten to pull their advertising from any women's magazine that published stories warning their readers about tampon risks.

Since the magazines depended on those advertising monies for their survival, most meekly caved in to Tambrand's strong arm tactics. For several years, if you read women's magazines (and for many women, they were their only source of health information, sadly), you'd never know toxic shock even existed.

Tambrands did pull their super-absorbent Rely tampons off the shelves in the U.S. in 1980, but this apparently only happened when it was clear that the federal government was going to step in and declare a recall.

Nowadays, Tampax products include some information about TSS.