Tampons: Not just for feminine hygiene | Science News

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How Bizarre

Tampons: Not just for feminine hygiene

Inexpensive product could help environmental engineers spot polluted rivers

8:15pm, March 30, 2015

LIGHT STICK  A tampon half coated with laundry detergent glows under UV light.

Tampons are cheap and highly absorbent, which makes them the perfect tool for testing rivers for pollution. Tampons submerged in contaminated water shine blue under ultraviolet light because of the brightening chemicals they have sucked in, researchers report March 30 in the Water and Environment Journal.    

Rivers can become polluted when wastewater from washing machines, sinks and showers (and rarely toilets) — which should flow into sewers that lead to treatment plants — accidentally connects to sewers for rainwater instead.  Untreated wastewater is laced with chemical brighteners from laundry detergent and cleaning products.  

“A tampon is one of the few things you can buy that is not pretreated with optical brighteners,” says coauthor David Lerner, an environmental engineer at the University of Sheffield in England. That makes them a perfect product in which

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