Why This Woman is Suing a Major Tampon Company
A recent case of toxic shock syndrome, a bacterial infection that can be caused by the internal use of products such as tampons, has reignited the debate over tampon use for women’s periods.
Twenty-four-year-old model Lauren Wasser was living the high life of a young, up-and-coming Los Angeleño. This all came crashing down when she contracted toxic shock syndrome from wearing a tampon overnight and ultimately had to get one of her legs partially amputated.
VICE magazine reports that she went from modeling, studying improv, playing basketball, and biking to being fatally ill and ultimately losing a limb in a matter of days.
What Exactly is “Toxic Shock Syndrome”?
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious and potentially fatal disease that involves fever, shock, and problems with several body organs.
However, as Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, notes TSS needs a particular environment to flourish: “A person needs to have a specific strain of staph bacteria (staphylococcus aureus) in their vaginal flora to contract TSS…If they do, the staph can multiply in the tampon’s absorbent fibers, producing a harmful toxin.” According to a 2011 study, about 20% of the population carries this specific strain of staph in their bodies. Thus, TSS requires the perfect storm of bacteria and an absorbent material to be created. However, that also means that TSS can develop in a variety of populations besides menstruating women, including postmenopausal women, men, and children.
That is, while TSS is often linked to menstruation, only about 50% TSS cases are even connected to menstruation. TSS can also occur after childbirth, skin infections, burns, surgery, even nosebleeds! Basically, a situation or procedure where packing was used to absorb the blood has the potential for TSS to occur. Therefore, tampons should not necessarily be excommunicated from women’s hygiene routines. However, the worry about tampons also makes sense since so many women—about 70% of American women, for example—use tampons during their menstrual cycles.
Symptoms of TSS include, but are not limited to, a sudden high fever, bloodshot eyes, sore throat, low blood pressure, dizziness, light-headedness and fainting, rashes that look like sunburns, muscle aches and pains, and redness of the tissue inside the mouth, eyes, or vagina.
TSS can cause organ damage, including kidney, heart, and liver failure. It is deadly in up to 50% of cases and the condition may return in those that survive.
Why is Lauren Wasser Suing a Tampon Company?
Lauren’s family began litigation against tampon manufacturers during her convalescence: “While Lauren was in the hospital, her mother began a massive lawsuit involving Kimberly-Clark Corporation—the manufacturer and distributor of Kotex Natural Balance tampons—as well as the grocery stores Kroger and Ralph’s, both of which sell Kotex Natural Balance. Kotex-brand tampons don’t necessarily carry a higher risk for TSS than other major brands, but are named in the suit because they’re the brand that Lauren used; ultimately, the family’s legal team hopes to make a point about the use of synthetic materials in the tampon industry as a whole. The complaint insists that all of the defendants are ‘negligently, wantonly, recklessly, tortuously, and unlawfully responsible in some manner’ for Lauren’s hospitalization for TSS.”
While time will tell whether or not Lauren Wasser will get the justice that she seeks, her case does highlight the persistent dangers of the rare but potentially lethal toxic shock syndrome and its connection to women’s use of tampons.
A Safe Option: The Diva Cup
Source: About News/Women’s Issues
Photo: Jennifer Rovero/ Camraface