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Model Loses Leg to Toxic Shock Syndrome, Sues Tampon Maker

By    |   Friday, 19 June 2015 08:22 AM

A Vogue cover model is suing tampon maker Kotex after she lost a leg to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a severe bacterial infection associated with tampons.

In October 2012, when Lauren Wasser was 24, she suffered a fever of 107 degrees that began shutting down her organs and soon triggered a massive heart attack, Vice News reported.


Emergency room doctors could not initially stabilize her, but an infectious disease specialist finally asked if Wasser was using a tampon. The sanitary product was tested, and came back positive for TSS.

TSS, named in 1978, is an infection that can occur in women or men, and involves staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus). Some 20 percent of the population carry the bacteria in their body, however it can turn into an infection after coming into contact with a tampon — the materials of which can sometimes provide a perfect breeding ground.

Wasser's infection soon turned into gangrene, and her right leg below the knee had to be removed.

That’s when Wasser's mother, who was by Lauren's side throughout the hospital stay — where her daughter was going in and out of consciousness — decided to sue Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the manufacturer of Kotex Natural Balance tampons.

"I wish I could say [Lauren's case] shocked me, but it doesn't," Wasser's lawyer, Hunter J. Shkolnik, said in a recent interview. "The tampon has not been changed since the day of the original TSS epidemic [in the 1980s]. All they did was put on the label, 'Oh, you can get toxic shock.' The material has gone unchanged for decades."

Dr. Philip M. Tierno, a professor of microbiology and pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, said tampons aren't the problem per se, but the materials it may or may not be made with makes all the difference.

"Most major tampon manufacturers make tampons with either mixes of viscose rayon and cotton, or pure viscose rayon, and in either case those tampons provide optimal physical-chemical conditions necessary to cause the production of the TSST-1 toxin if a toxigenic strain of Staphylococcus aureus is part of the normal vaginal flora in a woman," he said. "Toxic shock syndrome may result if a woman has no antibody to the toxin or low antibody. Therefore the synthetic ingredients of a tampon are a problem, whereas 100 percent cotton tampons provide the lowest risk, if any risk at all."

Kotex has declined to comment to the media about Wasser's case, as the litigation is ongoing.

Wasser herself had a hard period of adjustment during her recovery, but these days continues modeling as a form of therapy. She also hopes to work with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York to pass the Robin Danielson Act to establish a research program aimed at fighting TSS.


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A Vogue cover model is suing tampon maker Kotex after she lost a leg to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a severe bacterial infection associated with tampons.
model, loses, leg
Friday, 19 June 2015 08:22 AM
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