Just as an FYI, users who comment under anonymous usernames will be blocked. Everyone else is putting themselves out there with real names and faces, so I expect the same from this community.

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Apr 14Liked by Lee Tilghman

As someone who works in the toxicology field, this essay really resonates! It's my biggest pet peeve when an influencer talks about "toxic" products with zero scientific background. Let me get on my podium to repeat the words of the father of toxicology, Paracelsus: THE DOSE MAKES THE POISON!! Sure, PFAS is a harmful group of chemicals found in Thinx, but will the dose of PFAS in a pair of period panties that you wear a few times a month create a blood level that will cause harm? In my unofficial opinion, it seems highly unlikely. I just wish folks would actually do their research and talk to a tox before publishing the sensationalist headlines we see in the media.

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Lee, your post popped into my notifications just now as I’m lying in bed, awake since 3am, obsessing about figuring out the proper fertility diet and whether to spend thousands of dollars on functional nutrition testing. I’ve never heard of orthorexia before, but I seem to be heading in that direction. It feels divinely timed that you shared this today, and I happened to see it.

My own burgeoning health obsession is linked to increasing desperation over my three-year struggle with infertility and recurrent miscarriages, which I’ve been writing about on my Substack. I’ve reached a point where there’s not much more the fertility clinic can do for me, and I’m desperately seeking factors I can control that will give me some hope of a better outcome, like what I eat and put in my body.

You said that “If we want to avoid toxic chemicals, we all need to leave the cities immediately, stop driving cars, wear a hazmat suit, avoid fragrances, stop shopping at all major retailers, limit our exposure to each other, stop overheating oils, know which oils we are eating, stop using plastic—the list goes on and on.” I’ve done everything on this list short of the hazmat suit! I even changed my jogging route recently because I feared inhaling diesel fumes on the main road in town. I resonate so deeply with your observation that “Spending every waking moment of my life trying to avoid chemicals left me alone, isolated, fearful, anxiety-ridden, and paranoid as hell.”

I don’t know how to shake this obsession when my brain tells me that even the slightest transgression “will make my baby die” (and I’m not even pregnant). It’s like I have so much PTSD after four pregnancy losses and months and years of unsuccessful efforts to conceive that my mind thinks the entire outcome rests upon my moment-to-moment lifestyle choices. It’s an awful place to be, but a part of me thinks that if I don’t do everything I can, it will be my fault if I remain childless.

The irony, of course, is everyone says that they get pregnant once they stop thinking about it or stop trying. At 43, it’s hard for me to take that gamble when I have maybe six months of biological fertility left.

I would love to hear, how did you manage to shake the obsession? Did you slowly dismantle your rigid rules about things, or did you just wake up one day and say eff-it?

Thank you for bringing this important message to my inbox today! And I loved your NYT piece, by the way.

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This essay does not sit right with me at all. Bringing up privilege in some regard, while saying that people need to leave cities, wear hazmat suits, etc to be truly dedicated to avoiding toxins…it does not add up.

The privileges people would need to have to reach that level of avoidance of toxins are endless, and for most people unattainable.

That does not mean that people do not have the absolute right to expect & demand that companies & corporations are not poisoning consumers with their products.

Do you excuse and defend DuPont? Norfolk Southern Railroad?

People deserve to exist without known carcinogens & harmful bacteria being sold in household & clothing products. It is not “hype” for people to respond to such things in a serious matter.

Many other nations have laws & regulations that protect citizens from such ingredients. This is not a matter of organic versus non organic products.

Odd take….

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I think this ultimately simplifies this issue. While I agree that it is not helpful to pile on to blame one person or company…I do believe that companies such as Tampax need to get with the times. It doesn’t make sense for them to continue to produce and sell toxic products to the public. It shouldn’t be about who can afford it or not.

To me this article reads a bit “well everything causes cancer” and I do believe we should reject that. Companies do not get to get away with putting out toxic products and making a profit on the backs of keeping people sick.

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Apr 14Liked by Lee Tilghman

I am grateful for this piece today. The last few days have been one setback after another, leading me to be in a bad place. And through all this, I was thinking how my response, my sadness, would be deemed some sort of imbalance caused by the toxicity’s screamed at me through social media. Why can’t I just be sad? On top of everything else I’m dealing with, now I’m thinking how if I could afford all the cleaner things in life, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling as miserable and hopeless as I feel now. Because healthy humans don’t feel sad or depressed bc they have functioning thyroids and adrenals and so on. To sum it up, thank you. Pure and simple thank you for this article. I feel better knowing I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by ‘toxicity’s’.

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Apr 14·edited Apr 14Liked by Lee Tilghman

I sometimes wonder if Tampax is funding the studies against brands like Thinx! They still won’t disclose what chemicals they use to bleach the cotton for example and that is going inside our bodies not just externally. I’m sure tampons have risks too (besides TSS) but they are losing so much market share to period underwear and cups.

Perhaps a bit conspiracy theory though 🤷‍♀️

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Maybe consider the role of communities that might be harmed through uneven exposure to toxic substances? For instance, the PFAs might not harm you directly in the products you use, but you can bet they negatively impact the communities that live close to where those materials are produced -- communities that are more likely to be low income People of Color. That might be something to consider when you decide which brand of underwear to buy. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/2022/05/environmental-injustice-passing-costs-forever-chemicals-cleanup

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I fully understand your perspective and have felt it many times, but your position also comes with privilege (that you mentioned). I think there’s a little “toxicity gaslighting” going on here if I was to be super annoying with verbiage haha. I think its about damn time that we collectively come together and say absolutely not anymore. We deserve better. Companies don’t deserve our money if they are cutting costs with carcinogens, so it feels nice that we are finally fighting back and expecting more. Because the “at all costs” including our health is an atrocious common place business model

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I appreciate the conversation. I think there's a ton of nuance here that may be missed. It reminds me of when I was trying to figure out how to not live with migraines every day, and I read about that talked about the threshold for your triggers. They pile up, and if you have too many at once, you will get a migraine. But if you can control the ones you can control, like avoiding food triggers, for example, you may be able to keep it under the threshold, since you can't control things like the weather or stress (well, not completely and quickly), which may contribute to migraines.

I think the point here is that some people decide that consuming things with less toxins may benefit them, and may be the thing they can control. I think you're right, Lee, in that if it gets to a point of obsession, then the stress from the obsession very well may be worse than the toxins themselves. For me it's been finding a balance of not stressing (as much as possible) over the things I can't control, and swapping out a few products that I can control and make me feel more at ease (for example, it's not stressful to me that I once figured out a shampoo I like, and now I just buy that shampoo). I also have massive privilege to be able to do so.

I think the larger issues, though, and the more important issues, as mentioned by others, are two fold: 1) the emphasis on the consumer to do this kind of work. We need better regulations so that corporate and capitalist greed don't allow for our products to contain things that can harm us, and 2) the fact that toxins and environmental issues in general are a social justice issue. So many folks are living in highly polluted areas because of these products, and don't have the privilege to just move. Intersectional Environmentalists does a lot of good work on this front. By boycotting these products we aren't just "protecting" ourselves, we are using our privilege to draw a line in the sand that we won't stand for marginalized communities suffering at the hands of corporate greed.

So yeah, nuance. I agree the obsession is a problem, and I think there are a lot of other layers to this conversation, too! (Also the profiting from MLMs and such off of perpetuating this fear-mongering narrative really ruffles my feathers)

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Hi Lee! I will say following you and many other wellness influencers back in the day spurred my orthorexia. I was like you- had to be 100% “clean” eating, non-toxic products, etc. Luckily I was able to get out of that mindset because it was consuming me and my anxiety was super high and that would be all I can think about. I still am aware of toxics and try with certain things that I think are important but also “choose my battles to to speak” and my mental health is so much better for it. I also tried to do the “natural” hair rinse with apple cider vinegar back in the day instead of washing and was miserable and greasy and felt gross, but hey it was natural. I happily buy shampoo now 😉

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I can relate to this so much! Striving for "clean living" occupied so much mental real estate I could have spent doing things I truly enjoyed and would have contributed much more to my overall "wellness." It's ironic that a lifestyle that was supposed to make me healthier made me much more anxious, which in turn caused very measurable poor health outcomes (poor sleep, effects of undereating, over-exercising, etc)

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Something I wanted to add is that the reports say the levels of PFAs in THINX indicate that they were purposely added. That seems like an important distinction in this discussion. It is one thing for a company to unknowingly expose consumers to something dangerous. But with PFAs known for non stick properties, and the levels found, is is believed that the substances were knowingly used by the company to accomplish the goals & promises of the product, without disclosing what they used.

That is much different from a containment unknowingly or accidentally being in a certain product.

I can relate to some of what you said if we are talking about accidents, oversights, mistakes.

But purposely using/including harmful substances and hiding that fact deserves a severe reaction and punishment imo.

I definitely understand the hyper focus on things being unhealthy in sone way, and needing to let go of that. Also things like “superfoods” are often high oxalate, which can be harmful too. So it is important to have a balance.

I do not mean any disrespect. Just feel strongly that companies/corporations deserve intense reactions/consequences when they knowingly expose consumers to poisons.

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Something that seems important to clarify:

People do not need to have chronic illnesses, or compromised immune systems, to be harmed by such ingredients…

People with no underlying conditions develop life threatening illnesses from them.

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I think the point about control is great. Personally, I would be more intrigued to read about how this is connected to the absolute lack of care for women's health in America and the seemingly endless list of "beauty" and "personal care" products that are on some level toxic. One can enjoy a drink and still criticize the society and the government's failure to protect it'a citizens, and especially women. I know you recognized it - but it really is much easier to take this view when you are healthy. I by no means panic about it, but my life and health has improved after I became a bit more careful with what I consume/allow in my product lineup.

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THINX were found to have short chain per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

short chain per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Are NOT only dangerous to those with existing conditions

short chain per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Can damage the liver & kidneys, and so much more

They accumulate in the body, and are found during autopsy


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