Shocking report exposes PFAS presence in 48% of popular feminine care products

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pfas-found-in-feminine-care-products(NaturalHealth365)  Finding health-friendly products is increasingly challenging, with personal hygiene items being no exception.  Mom-centered website, helps women eliminate chemicals from their homes and lives.  The site recently set its sights on feminine and incontinence products.

The site conducted a consumer study and sent a variety of 46 different types and brands of incontinence pads, panty liners, and sanitary pads to a laboratory, certified by the EPA, for analysis.  The results showed that a staggering 48% of the pads contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The pervasive presence of PFAS: Understanding the “forever chemicals”

PFAS, have earned the moniker “forever chemicals” due to their remarkable resilience.  These synthetic compounds are notoriously durable, making them exceptionally challenging to eradicate once they enter the environment or our bodies.  Their robust nature means they persist in both biological systems and the wider ecosystem for extended periods.

The ubiquity of PFAS is truly alarming.  These chemicals have permeated numerous facets of our daily lives, infiltrating a myriad of products found in homes, workplaces, and educational institutions alike.  From the cleaning agents we use the grease-resistant coatings on our food packaging, to the uniforms our children wear at school – PFAS seem to be everywhere.  Their presence extends to nonstick pans, bedding, various types of clothing, waterproof gear, and even the water we drink, spotlighting the widespread and indiscriminate nature of their use and distribution.

What are the dangers of PFAS?

Extensive studies have delved into the health implications of PFAS exposure.  These chemicals have been associated with a range of health concerns, including but not limited to, irregular fetal development, cardiovascular issues, hormonal imbalances, elevated cholesterol, reproductive disorders, specific cancers, metabolic ailments such as diabetes and obesity, and thyroid complications.  Alarmingly, certain variants of PFAS can pose health risks even at minuscule concentrations.

Compounding this issue is the lack of transparency from manufacturers regarding the inclusion of PFAS in their products.  Without mandatory disclosure, consumers are essentially making purchases without full awareness.  Even individuals who prioritize health and well-being might inadvertently introduce these harmful substances into their households, unknowingly putting their loved ones at risk.

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In some states, a smattering of laws have been enacted that restrict PFAS in firefighting foam as well as regulate PFAS in drinking water and consumer products like dental floss, personal lubricants, feminine care, shampoo, and incontinence products.  Unfortunately, it is not enough.  These harmful chemicals continue to show up in common items that are found in the very products that you use every day – and a few laws that are little more than a nod to satisfy and subdue public outcry are hardly effective.  They offer little, if any, protection because the problem is simply too widespread in so many different products – nearly everything.

New York broke significant ground in 2019 when it became the first state to pass laws that require manufacturers of sanitary pads to disclose “all intentionally added ingredients.”  This is a major step in the right direction.  However, some brands are not in complete compliance.  They are burying some of the ingredients, hiding them in broad terms like “adhesive,” “ink,” “surfactant,” and “fragrance.”  In other words, there’s still a long way to go.

Why are PFAS used in incontinence and period products?

The results of a study presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2023 meeting showed that PFAS was an ingredient in many feminine hygiene products, but often undisclosed.  The researchers analyzed and tested more than 100 different feminine products.  The highest amounts measured in the products were 1,000 and up to several thousand parts per million total fluorine.

The researchers speculate that the high levels of PFAS in these products indicate that they are used to keep moisture in the deeper layers of the absorbent material to prevent blood and fluid from leaking and spreading on the clothing of the individual.

Other ingredients that may contain undisclosed PFAS in products  include:

  • Fragrance
  • Colorants and dyes
  • Polyethylene Glycol or PEGS
  • Dioxins and furans
  • Synthetic fibers such as rayon (some tampons contain rayon)
  • Pesticide residue (“all-natural” products like cotton sanitary pads)
  • Parabens and bisphenols (BPA)
  • Petroleum, petrolatum, or mineral oil
  • Ethoxylated ingredients

Indeed, the presence of PFAS in feminine hygiene products such as pantiliners, sanitary pads, tampons, and incontinence pads can be both deliberate and unintentional.  Given the widespread prevalence of PFAS, it’s possible for manufacturers to inadvertently incorporate materials containing these chemicals during production.  While detection methods exist, implementing rigorous testing before integrating materials into products comes with associated costs.  This additional expense could, in turn, drive up the retail price for consumers.

How to avoid PFAS in feminine care products

Avoiding PFAS products of any kind is not easy.  A few companies are committed to keeping the chemicals out of their products and have created policies stating as such.  Whole Foods has a strict policy that bans more than 215 ingredients, including PFAS, in all of its products.  Three menstrual product brands, Aisle, Rael, and Saalt, have similar policies that prohibit the inclusion of PFAS in their products.

When shopping for feminine care products and incontinence products, read the product labels.  Any ingredient that has “fluoro” in the name should raise red flags.

  • Check labels for “PFAS and fluorinated free”
  • Look for organic products because they typically don’t have synthetic chemicals
  • Menstrual cups and reusable period underwear are usually more likely to be PFAS-free
  • Look for PFAS ingredient names (although many feminine care products don’t have an ingredient list)
    • PTFE (Teflon)
    • Perfluorononyl Dimethicone
    • Perfluorodecalin
    • C9-15 Fluoroalcohol Phosphate
    • Octafluoropentyl Methacrylate
    • Perfluorohexane
    • Pentafluoropropane
    • Polyperfluoroethoxymethoxy Difluoroethyl Peg Phosphate
    • Polyperfluoroethoxymethoxy Peg-2 Phosphate
    • Methyl Perfluorobutyl Ether
    • Perfluorononylethyl Carboxydecyl Peg-10 Dimethicone
    • Perfluorodimethylcyclohexane
    • Perfluoroperhydrophenanthrene

You may also choose to detox your body from PFAS.  While the human body is very capable of processing these toxins and removing them naturally, infrared saunas, PEMF therapy, and detox binders may also help.

A little due diligence can help you greatly reduce your exposure to PFAS.  If your favorite products contain these chemicals, contact the company and let them know how you feel about them.  The only way to get some companies’ attention is to hit them in their pocketbook – and you, as a consumer, hold those purse strings.

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