Exposure Assessment to Dioxins from the Use of Tampons and Diapers. (Articles)

By De Vito, Michael J.; Schecter, Arnold | Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Exposure Assessment to Dioxins from the Use of Tampons and Diapers. (Articles)


De Vito, Michael J., Schecter, Arnold, Environmental Health Perspectives


Over the past several years there has been concern over exposure to dioxins through the use of tampons and other sanitary products. This article describes attempts to estimate dioxin exposures from tampons and infant diapers; we then compare exposure estimates to dietary dioxin exposures. We analyzed four brands of tampons and four brands of infant diapers obtained from commercial establishments in San Francisco, California, for dioxin concentrations. We estimated exposures to dioxins on the basis of a screening level analysis that assumed all dioxins present were completely absorbed. We also estimated exposures by using a more refined analysis that incorporates partition coefficients to estimate bioavailability. None of the products contained 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, the most potent dioxin, although other dioxins were present at detectable concentrations in all samples. We observed minimal differences in the concentrations of dioxins between 100% cotton and cotton/pulp products. The refined exposure analysis indicates that exposures to dioxins from tampons are approximately 13,000-240,000 times less than dietary exposures. The refined exposure analysis showed that exposure to dioxins from the diet is more than 30,000-2,200,000 times the exposure through diapers in nursing infants. Although dioxins are found in trace amounts in both cotton and pulp sanitary products, exposure to dioxins through tampons and diapers does not significantly contribute to dioxin exposures in the United States. Key wordg, diapers, dioxins, exposure assessment, tampons, toxic equivalents. Environ Health Perspeet 110:23-28 (2002). [Online 10 December 2001]

http://ehpnet1.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2002/110p23-28devito/abstract.html

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Recently there has been considerable concern over exposure to dioxins through the use of sanitary products containing wood pulp or pulp-based products, such as rayon, that have been bleached with chlorine. Rayon-containing products, particularly tampons, have been singled out in some forums. This concern is based on information disseminated predominantly through the internet via e-mails and web pages, but it has also been picked up by television news, newspapers, and magazines. These reports suggest exposure to dioxins through tampon use as the causative agent in endometriosis and potentially other reproductive tract diseases. The basis for this suggestion stems from two lines of data. First, there are several reports on the presence of dioxins in tampons (1,2). Second, in several experimental systems, dioxins increase the incidence and/or severity of endometriosis in primates (3,4), rats (5), and mice (5-7). However, there are considerable uncertainties in the role of dioxins in the development of endometriosis. There is limited information available on the potential exposure to dioxins from tampons and other sanitary products. In addition, no definitive human data refute or support the association between dioxin exposure and endometriosis or other reproductive tract diseases.

Dioxins are a class of persistent polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons that induce a wide spectrum of toxic responses in experimental animals including reproductive, endocrine, developmental, and immunologic toxicities as well as carcinogenicity (8). Most if not all effects of dioxins are mediated by their binding to the aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor (9). The Ah receptor is a ligand-activated transcription factor that is a member of the Per/ARNT/Sim family of transcription factors (8-10). The Ah receptor is found in a wide variety of species including fish, birds, rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans (10). The presence of an active human Ah receptor suggests that humans may respond to dioxins in a manner similar to experimental animals. In filct, there is mounting evidence of the health effects of dioxins in humans. Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Institutes of Health in the United States have independently upgraded 2,3,7,8-tetrachlordibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) to a known human carcinogen (11,12). …

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