We need to talk about the Robin Danielson Act
Here’s something we don’t talk about, like, ever, but probably should – the safety of the feminine hygiene products we use every month when Aunt Flo comes to town.
Right now, most major companies that make pads and tampons do their own private research and hand it over to the Food and Drug Administration, meaning that while there is some level of standardized safety, the crux of it is left to the companies that profit from your menstrual cycle.
To that end, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has reintroduced a bill that seeks to research the possible dangers of feminine care products, and have said research carried out by the National Institutes of Health rather than private companies. The bill is called the Robin Danielson Act, and is named for a woman who died from toxic shock syndrome (the warning about that is on your box of tampons).
“American women spend well over $2 billion per year on feminine hygiene products, and the average woman will use over 16,800 tampons and pads over the course of her lifetime,” Maloney told RH Reality Check. “Despite this large investment and high usage, there has been limited research on the potential health risks these products may pose to women.”
That’s deeply concerning.
As RH Reality Check reports, it’s way too hard for your Average Jane to know whether or not her tampon is really safe or even if it contains trace amounts of toxins.
In addition to clearing up safety testing on the tampons themselves, the Robin Danielson Act is also looking into answering questions about the long-term use of tampons and what possible hazards synthetic fibers and chemicals like dioxins have on the body over the years.
Maloney first presented the bill to Congress in 1997, a year before Danielson died, but as RH Reality Check notes, the proposed bill has been tossed out a dizzying nine times in all. Reps for Maloney’s office couldn’t clarify why exactly that happened.
The biggest issue with the status quo, is that apart from not really knowing the safety of the products we put inside our bodies every month, these tampon companies have zero obligation to release the reports they give the FDA to the public. So millions of women are in the dark about their own health.
For Maloney, this is a battle to make basic information readily available to the women using these products regularly.
“The reality is menstrual health has been considered a taboo subject for far too long,” she told RH Reality Check. “My legislation will give women the ability to make more informed decisions as they seek to lead healthy lives.”
And that’s some information that’s been long overdue.