A friend just shared this post going around Facebook:

Screen shot 2015-10-23 at 11.13.52 AM

The post reports that Dr. Damian Marino, a researcher from Argentina, claims that 85% of tampons he tested contain “cancer-causing glyphosate” and “62 percent also tested positive for AMPA, the environmental metabolite.” This data was presented at the “3rd National Congress of Peoples” (another website claims this was presented at the “Third National Congress of Doctors of Fumigated Peoples”). Dr. Marino is at the University of La Plata.

I have some issues.

The first is Dr. Marino hasn’t published this data and I can’t find a syllabus from a scientific conference using the search term “3rd National Congress of Peoples” or the “3rd National Congress of Fumigates Peoples.” I can only find a video of his talk in Spanish (see below).

Looking into the matter further the link provided (via Google translate) isn’t an article but appears to be some kind of press release.

Obviously, when researchers make claims about contaminants in products (or about anything) we need to make sure their methodology is sound and their conclusions accurate. Without the methods, data, and their statistical analysis that isn’t possible. Someone saying they did a study doesn’t count. However, digging a bit further it appears that Dr. Marino has published in this area in peer-reviewed journals so I will assume that his methodology is sound. If any chemists or other researchers in the field can offer insight into his methodology, please post below.

All I have to go on is the 10 minute video. I don’t speak Spanish well enough to translate and the slides are hard to see, but it appears as if he is reporting a maximum of 4 micrograms/kg or 0.004 micrograms/gram in menstrual products (this is combined glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA).  Marino’s own research states that control areas in the ground without application of herbicide have 0.005 micrograms per gram. So it appears as if tampons and pads have the same amount of glyphosate as everything else in or from the ground. This makes sense as cotton is a plant and many menstrual products contain cotton (some are rayon and some are a blend of both). If you want to more know about what is in them and how they are made here is a link from the FDA

Screen shot 2015-10-24 at 9.54.44 AM

It appears that the products at the bottom of the slide are tampons without applicators and a pad (but it’s hard to be 100% sure as that is the best I could do with a screen shot or watching the video).

Ok, but what it glyphosate and why should I care/worry?

Glyphosate is in herbicides and it very routinely used everywhere. The World Health Organization recently labeled Glyphosate as a probably carcinogen. This is what they have to say:

For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals. On the basis of tumours in mice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group C) in 1985. After a re-evaluation of that mouse study, the US EPA changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans (Group E) in 1991. The US EPA Scientific Advisory Panel noted that the re-evaluated glyphosate results were still significant using two statistical tests recommended in the IARC Preamble. The IARC Working Group that conducted the evaluation considered the significant findings from the US EPA report and several more recent positive results in concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby

This is what probably carcinogenic means according to the WHO:

There is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (called chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out. This category is also used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and strong data on how the agent causes cancer.

It is true that in California glyphosate will now be labelled as a carcinogen, but if you live here you know that basically everything is labelled a carcinogen. Every parking garage and coffee shop warns you of the carcinogens lurking within (yes, coffee production can produce a carcinogenic). I am sure if we could label the sun as a carcinogen in California we would. There are so many signs in San Francisco that in my opinion we have surpassed alarm fatigue – I no longer notice them. 

According to the American Cancer Society alcohol beverage consumption is a known carcinogen and is listed in the same category as asbestos, so some perspective about carcinogen exposure is needed. The cancer risk of a chemical is related to not only it’s ability to damage DNA, but also the dose, route, and length of exposure. 

So what does this all mean for your vagina?


Why? Well, applying logic there are two possible outcomes from this data (assuming it is correct):

  1. Glyphosate at this level (also found in uncontaminated soil) is dangerous to humans. If so I would worry a lot more about what you eat and what you wear and where you walk barefoot than a tampon that you use 4 days a month. And then there is the fact that for a substance to get from a tampon into your blood stream it has to be in the right vehicle for transport. Menstrual blood is not reabsorbed, so it is highly doubtful that any glyphosate could even get into your body this way. If it is in your pad I would also not worry unless you intend to insert them in your body or ingest them (DONT DO THAT!). 
  2. Glyphosate in this level is not dangerous to humans because this is the background level that is in everything. 

If you are worried about chemicals and cancer you should be a lot more concerned about alcohol and coffee than tampons. Just saying.

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  1. I wonder if the men in this company would be willing to use these products rectally to prove they are safe, I mean if it is safe and all, why not??? Their answer will give you your answer as to it’s safety.

  2. Put one in for the first time, got toxic shock syndrome. 106° fever, blacked out. Admitted to the hospital for 2 weeks.

  3. What about talc? Johnson & Johnson has lost lawsuits over women who claimed to have developed ovarian cancer after decades worth of baby powder use. It’s amazing to me that something as old-school as as talc — a mineral that we’ve been using for well over 100 years — still poses that many unanswered questions from a health perspective!

    One of the problem areas is this notion of “Generally Recognize As Safe” (GRAS). It’s a process by which products/substances that have been in the market for many years, despite little or no study, are presumed safe.

    Most people don’t realize that pesticides and herbicides can be brought to market with as little as 60 days of study. That’s because toxicology tests rely almost exclusively upon the manufacturer — with no legal requirement for long-term testing, either. In recent years we have seen the rise of colony collapse disorder in honeybees, alleged to be a result of neonicotinoids, and the decimation of much of the monarch butterfly populations, too. Our way of doing business literally amounts to subjecting everything and everyone to mass experimentation.

    As consumers, we have seen a surge in food additives since the mid ’50s, which are now ubiquitous in the food supply (not just the over-use of high-fructose corn syrup but much more exotic chemical compounds of which a portion may exhibit addictive properties). Like pesticides, our regulatory bodies are largely reliant upon the word of manufacturers that food additives are safe. Despite the fact that the FDA and EPA are perceived as stringent organizations, people would be surprised to know that most of the things we eat, apply to our skin and put on our crops and gardens have been subjected to little or no independent testing.

    Another thing we are beginning to appreciate is the contaminating role of drugs — after we excrete them. Here we have a case where scientific investigation and regulatory requirements haven’t kept pace with one another. There is little if any testing requirement on the part of sanitation districts to attempt to monitor, let alone remove, the many pharmaceuticals in wastewater. In Seattle, researchers found water that had been treated — and released into the ocean — was high in Prozac, birth control pills and Oxycontin, among other drugs, which are in turn accumulating in marine life.

    The nation’s water supplies are increasingly filled with endocrine disrupters and, joined in many regions, too, by the byproducts of fracking (whose chemical composition is not entirely disclosed by industry, either).

    None of this even begins to touch the issue of bio-accumulation in the food chain, either.

    I don’t think it’s surprising, under the circumstances, that we have a seemingly disconnected series of health/environmental problems uncommonly seen in the era that predates the “Better Living Through Chemistry”. Because scientists and researchers often specialize, lines of inquiry, too, tend to compartmentalize phenomena that may in fact share common links. Consider how seemingly different — but potentially connected — our modern health problems are: infertility, autism, heart disease, obesity — and the fact that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop cancer in their lifetimes according to the WHO.

    I feel that the mindset that took hold in the Atomic Era — innovate now and appreciate the unintended consequences later — has grown tiresome and old from a health/safety standpoint. The developers of yesterday’s innovations didn’t have the benefit of today’s technology by which to better understand broader health and environmental impacts. We do, however. So the question in my mind is, why are we continuing to allow corporations whose products pervade our food, water, agriculture lands and the food chain as a whole to continue operating on what amounts to the honor system?

    From the New York Times:

    “In its history, the E.P.A. has mandated safety testing for only a small percentage of the 85,000 industrial chemicals available for use today.”*

    By any definition, we are steeped in a “chemical soup”. And it starts painfully young, too. I will never forget the study that made national news many years ago after newborn cord blood was found to contain some 200 chemicals, among them Teflon (this prompted the manufacturer of Teflon, in talks with the EPA, to agree to phase it out by ~2015. But that didn’t happen because the agreement itself relied upon the honor system.) I don’t think the people who are grappling with the rising rates of autism, infertility, obesity, heart disease and cancer typically regard them as interrelated phenomena — but perhaps they should. (My personal theory is that even the health problems we tend to relegate to a lifestyle issue will be shown to have strong environmental links — not unlike the way in which the over-use of antibiotics has spawned not only drug resistance but changes in our microbiome that, alongside soil depletion and the heavy use of food additives, may also factor into the “Perfect Storm” of sorts for the obesity –>heart disease–>cancer epidemics.) In conclusion, I see no viable model for “disease prevention” if we continue to operate as if product safety can be decided in the marketplace.

    * Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/sunday-review/think-those-chemicals-have-been-tested.html?_r=0

  4. That’s unbelievable. It seems to me that no matter how large amount of chemicals (it’s not just about glyphosate) contains cotton but that you voluntarily agree to the destruction – small and hidden, but still (I don’t count amount of pesticides every year in the soil).It’s good to hear from someone who needn’t to use tampons.

  5. Creepy SageRad said this about Dr Gunter:

    “… you’re an apologist for an industry that would not care if they poisoned people and did not when it came to PCBs …”

    This is a creepy attack on an honest and hard working scientist. You are a serial pest with an anti-social disorder who turns up all over the place to attack scientists and health professionals who refuse to join your vicious crusade against conventional farmers and biotechnology.

    1. Good lord. I have the feeling you’re not actually “Less Tran” and i have the feeling you’re an attack dog for the industry. Have fun showing your ugliness. I’m here to talk about actual things like the chemical that is in all our food and also in our cotton apparently.

  6. Good Lord, someone is *thinking*! That’s a novel approach… it should be stopped! How can we scare people when you’re turning them into informed citizens? 😉

    1. The UN FAO 2005 report on residues shows glyphosate in cotton seeds at mg/kg levels — not micrograms but milligrams per kg, similar to that in most foods that are Roundup Ready… so it’s quite plausible there is glyphosate in cotton fibers. And that bothers me.

      As for the WHO — the IARC concluded that glyphosate *does* cause cancer in lab animals. In humans there is less data available because you cannot do a feeding test at higher levels on humans of course. But we’re all in a great experiment now and we would not even know if that is the reason that pancreatic cancer rates have gone up since around 2000. How would we know whether it’s the cause of an additional 2 or 3 deaths per 100,000? That’s not epidemiologically traceable and yet it’s still 2 or 3 loved ones who would die. So… many important questions not answered by this post. This seems to be overly friendly to the industry. Why?

      1. Thanks Dr Jen Gunter for posting honest information that tackles silly fear mongering.

        SageRad is a notorious troll who has been banned from editing the wiki page on glyphosate. He is known to hack the wiki pages of prominent members of the skeptic community, including David Gorski, to post malicious content. Sage also appears to to be the Food Babe Van Hari’s payroll as he aggressively tackles anyone who points out that she sells dozens of items that contain the ingredients she says are deadly.

        It is sad that unstable people like Mr Sage get their kicks by spreading fear and mischief and sell their soul to immoral people for a few coins.

  7. The sickest thing about glyphosates are the carriers that allow transport into cells. When glyphosate is tested, it is tested alone and as a single chemical, and not in combination with the carriers the weed controllers are filled with.

  8. I appreciate your desire to ferret out truth, but I don’t understand how you can write an article that basically is telling people not to worry about glyphosate exposure. We are continually being exposed to it, and this is the insidiousness of it. Just because it’s a long slow process of poisoning that’s hard to measure, doesn’t mean it isn’t poison. Overreliance on systemically regulated scientific “evidence” is a mistake because it has been proven over and over that we cannot rely on those in charge to publish truth because they have industry ties. The way universities now conduct the funding of research makes me doubt there is unbiased “scientific method” happening anywhere. The way the info emerges may be messy and alarming, but we need to keep trying to be kinder to the earth and learning about the ways in which we are killing it and ourselves unnecessarily. California laws are not the real cause of fatigue…our ignorance and greed in pursuit of money and stuff that had led to the abundance of environmental toxins is the cause. Head in sand arguments do not help the real issue.

  9. I don’t trust the first conventional Dr, unless I know they ate open to reality not just what big pharma and Monsanto teaches them. Can’t
    trust them. Work out your own health.. This should have been told to us 30 years ago. Everyone of top tier at Monsanto and the FDA should go to prison for life. Doctors do not argue to keep disgusting killers in out health field. We need to alL FILE a suit against all of them. Really makes me angry with out medical system and our government.

  10. Wait just a cotton pickin minute. You telling me doctors do prefer Camels to regular? The dose is low but you do need to calculate from all sources if you are going that route.

  11. Wow, thank you. Diligent research, especially considering there is no publication to consult. Hopefully it is submitted or in press; it would be a useful small publication on the ability to detect levels this low– and then it would be in the public domain, so people with a basic biology background could figure out the real story.

  12. I agree with ALLAN POSTGATE. Also I would like to say that even if it is the dose what makes something a poison, this is not a suitable reason to allow certain substances in our bodies, even in small doses. Specially when we are talking about a substance which would be a poison in a very low dose if we compare it to H2O, for example. The definition of a poison is not only the dose. It is also the size of the poisonous dose for humans, the probability and frecuency of that substance in the environment… our exposure to it in amount and frecuency.
    I think we can’t avoid to have certain amounts of carcinogenic substances and products with us, (we can’t avoid the sun exposure, even we shouldn’t) specially if risks are lower than benefits. But we should be aware of their dangers and try to reduce them as possible. If we could make tampons without glyphosate, don’t you think it will be better for our health?

    And I would like to say one more thing about your article that I don’t agree: “Menstrual blood is not reabsorbed, so it is highly doubtful that any glyphosate could even get into your body this way.” You are mixing concepts. Of course menstrual blood is not reabsorbed, but nobody thinks you could absorb anything by menstrual blood. But everybody knows that there are lots of substances that can be absorbed by vagina, even during menstrual period. For example contraceptive hormones using the contraceptive ring. Several drugs also. Why not glyphosate?

    Sorry if my comment has some writing mistakes, english is not my native tongue.

  13. Yes, it is parts per billion reported in the cotton products, and that’s a lot less than the parts per million that is in out food. There is significant glyphosate taken up by cotton plants, and it is found in cottonseed oil and cotton seeds in general. The oil contains less than the meal of the seeds. I am more concerned about the levels in soy that is eaten in the typical diet, and corn, and other Roundup Ready crops especially, as these have the highest levels, on the order of 2 mg per kilogram. That’s milligrams not micrograms as in this study of the cotton. That, to me, needs investigation in regard to if or how it affects the gut of the human superorganism, as the microbes are differentially inhibited by glyphosate. Glyphosate does affect the endophytic and soil microbial communities at these levels and there is no good reason to assume it’s not also affecting the gut of the human superorganism who eats the chemical on a daily basis. Thank you for your work toward getting the facts right.

  14. ‘Glyphosate in this level is not dangerous to humans because this is the background level that is in everything.’ What sort of reassurance is that? You could just as easily have written ‘There is so much of this shit in the environment that a bit more won’t make any difference’. A safe level of a poison or carcinogen is not a concept I accept.

    1. So I guess you never, ever, ever expose yourself to the sun? You wear SPF 50 rated long garments every time you are outside, including your hands and a thick layer of sunscreen on your face and a hat? And you never drink coffee or drive a car (exhaust has carcinogens).

      The dose is what clinically makes something a poison or a carcinogen. If glyphosate in tampons is the same level as in contaminated ground – well, that’s an expected finding as wood (what becomes rayon) and cotton come from the ground so it’s no surprise.

      It’s a lot of reassurance, meaning the level isn’t higher than the lowest background.

      1. We are not talking about the sun we are talking about pads and tampons were some one put some thing and never told the people. And Jen Gunter do you have shares in the MONSANTO’S CARCINOGENIC HERBICIDE. Also if you have a little girl or older girl I pray we are wrong and you are right.

      2. “”””Uh no I don’t have shares in Monsanto. If your only defense is accusing me of ties with a company then you don’t really have a case. I take no money from industry. Next.””””

        Uh no that was not their only “defense” was not accusing you of being a shill, that was a question and a reasonable one meant to convey a surmise about your motivation… as i can see as a witness to this interaction…. and your dismissal of their real point is telling that you really don’t care about the human cost that could be true because of this, and instead you react to the so-called “shill gambit” and say “next” … that’s telling…. you’re an apologist for an industry that would not care if they poisoned people and did not when it came to PCBs… ever real the Chemical Industry Archives website?

        Have you seen the 1991 EPA memo in which they reprinted data showing that glyphosate appears to cause cancer in lab animals, and yet then explained it away with non-arguments? Have you read that?

        Is your mind open to the possibility that there may be more than meets the eye here?

        As a human you ought to care, or at least know what you’re talking about before you make assertions or dismiss people.

    2. You will have to stop eating food, and stop breathing then. Everything is carcinogenic, except water.

  15. So you feel confident about putting words into WHO’s mouth? You have the authority to speak for them? Because that is what you are doing when you assume what labelling glyphosate carcinogenic probably means to the WHO. Probably not just haven’t taken that last step in your research. Probably lazy or afraid. Ya’ probably safe to assume. If that wasn’t arrogant enough you also know the thoughts of every good citizen of California ’cause after all you live there so… so of course you know. I give this article 2 out of five stars. pfft.

    1. Ummm, I know that this may come as a shock to you, as you clearly don’t check or research your statements before making them, but the definition of what “potentially carcinogenic,” means wasn’t the author’s assumption, but the definition/explanation that the WHO provides. The WHO and most legitimate scientific organizations will almost always define/explain what their classification terms mean specifically so that they are properly understood and not misinterpreted as the language in itself can be read differently depending on the reader, the context, etc.

      In this case, the author directly quotes the WHO’s stated definition/explanation of glyphosphate’s classification of “potentially carcinogenic.” You can easily verify this yourself on the WHO website. Or, as you asked the author, “are you lazy, or afraid?”

      Oh, and for the record, because I am sure that this comment will somehow be misread by some as defending glyphosphate or Monsanto or something like that, despite not mentioning anything of the sort. So just to stay ahead of the game, this comment is intended to simply clarify one thing: that the author wasn’t assuming what the WHO thinks potentially carcinogenic means, but was quoting the WHO’s own definition to further explain to her readers what the WHO means. That’s all.

      I hope that clears things up for you.

      1. Ummm, no it did not come as a shock and why does the author need you to clarify? Did you not understand? My attack is not against WHO it is against an author who is clearly making massive assumptions regardless of wether or not WHO is most legitimate scientific of organizations. An author who makes enormous generalizations about understanding the population of California because she lives in San Francisco? Also why the hell would I have to ‘research’ an opinion, my opinion which was not a statement at all. pfft to you too.

    2. California, the state of insanity, where everything is carcinogenic, and you park you brain at the border when entering, and where people and businesses are fleeing in despair

  16. I really appreciate that you put some effort into further researching the information that was presented. We have been fortunate to solve some health problems in natural ways. If I mention this to doctors, I get absolutely no response. No discussion. This has caused decreased trust in our healthcare providers. The fact that you took the time to get all the information and provide supporting facts is refreshing. Thank you.

    1. I would guess the reason Doctors don’t make a comment on this is because they don’t have enough information. This kind of information could cause mass hysteria! As an agronomist and female myself, I was actually looking for an different article to post for farmers on a website. This article came up and made me stop and read. Things a doctor would not know is that glyphosate is inactive once it hits the ground, thus being a chemical that is for me least offensive to be around. It was originally developed as a chemical tank cleaner. Being a farmer and an agronomist I have a lot more exposure to it than most people. As far as chemicals go I am the least scared of glyphosate. There are other ones that direct exposure worries me a lot more. There are also pre-harvest intervals for all chemicals that are sprayed. That means a government agency has evaluated these chemicals and the length of time that the chemical remains active in the plant and you can’t harvest until you reach that Pre-harvest interval. So I would ease up on the doctors. Most of them didn’t grow up on a farm and there is a lot more to plant physiology than most people not in a plant related industry think about, and the internet really doesn’t have all the answers. There are however a lot of opinions.

  17. 1.- It was an informal paper published in the “Congreso de Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados” [“Congress of Physicians of Fumigated Villages”] in Argentina, an strongly and very ideological anti-GMO and anti-agribusiness group known for its terrible working methodology – without experience in molecular biology, and they are known for fill their papers with lots of correlations and never explain causalities when they attack glyphosate.

    2.- The information was released to the press without prior publication of the study in a peer-reviewed journal. (Do you remember Séralini in 2012?). In fact, the same group of researchers recognized that for them “is not important to generate a scientific publication with international standards”, but just “to generate discussion” [http://goo.gl/rKdSkv]. In other words, generate unfounded alarmism.

    3.- The eventual level of glyphosate detected is very low, away from a toxic or worrisome level. The contamination found is ~15 micrograms per kg of cotton. A 30x20cm gauze with 8 layers has in total 0.48 m2, which is equivalent to 0.012 kg (12 g). That means that on average, a gauze has 0.18 micrograms (0.00000018 grams) of glyphosate.

    4.- Considering that NOAEL (the dose above which adverse effects occur) of glyphosate is 0.15 g/kg of body weight – the lowest found and for maternal toxicity (https: I //t.co / AbEZFzFJJL). Then for an adult of 60 kg, 50 million bandages are necessary. And all this, pretending that you eat the gauze (oral toxicity).

    5. The real story about this is not that glyphosate is contaminating us, but we have the tools to detect very small amounts of the compound – in fact, thanks to information obtained with a contact in Argentina, apparently the group used HPLC, a fine tool of detection.

    6.- While the Argentine cotton sector is not known for having very good agricultural practices (with inadequate application of pesticides and herbicides), not necessarily the glyphosate can be reached via spray to the cotton’s cocoon, but it can be reached by translocation of the normal glyphosate ‘s waste from the soil (this considering the low level of glyphosate reported in the controversial work).

    6. We must await the publication of the study to discuss it in more detail.

    1. Interesting that Seralini is mention , given that it has come to pass that he was indeed found correct, and that the French Government have reportedly laid fraud charges against one of those who challenged his paper

    2. “AMPA, Aminomethylphosphonic acid, is a metabolite of glyphosate, and causes injury”.
      The big question, which may also be the answer, is “Why put ‘ampa’ in the ‘TAMPAX’?”. Ladies, you’ll be much healthier substituting the ‘ram-rod’ for a ‘hammock’ – period.

    3. This was obviously written by a man who just gave up coffee…just saying.
      This issue is consumers have the right to know what the ingredients/products are made of and how they are made so we can make an informed decision before putting it into our bodies.

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