Twenty-two sanitary pads, panty liners and incontinence pads have detectable levels of fluorine, an indicator of the group of chemicals known as PFAS, according to a new report from Mamavation.
Partnering with EHN.org, the environmental wellness blog and community had 46 pads products tested by a U.S.-Environmental-Protection-Agency-certified lab and found levels of fluorine ranging from 11 parts per million, or ppm, to 154 ppm in 22 of the brands, including 13 advertised as “organic,” “natural,” “non-toxic,” “sustainable” or using “no harmful chemicals.”
Fluorine is a strong indicator of “forever chemicals”— which have been linked to everything from cancer to birth defects to lower vaccine effectiveness.
EHN.org partially funded the testing and Pete Myers, chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, which publishes Environmental Health News, reviewed the findings. The report comes just a month after Mamavation found PFAS evidence in popular tampon brands. A past investigation also looked at PFAS indicators in period underwear and found 11 of 17 tested pairs had detectable levels of fluorine.
But it’s not just feminine care products — earlier this year an EHN.org investigation on PFAS found the chemicals in foods, sports clothes, makeup and other products.
While the health impacts of PFAS exposure via skin contact are still somewhat unclear, Linda S. Birnbaum, scientist emeritus and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, told Mamavation “Dermal exposure to PFAS from your menstrual products can be a big problem. Because vaginal skin is so vascular, we can anticipate the internal exposure could be a bit worse. This is a category of products that should NOT have any detectable fluorine.”
It’s not clear how fluorine ends up in sanitary products. However, it’s possibly from trying to achieve moisture-wicking fabric, as PFAS are stain- and water-resistant. Or the contamination could be unintended via lubricants used in production, or manufacturers omitting data on — or simply not knowing — the raw materials.
Read more about how products are often unintentionally contaminated with PFAS.
Below are the 22 brands that had detectable fluorine.
See the full report at Mamavation to see brands that tested clean.
Want to know more about PFAS? Check out our comprehensive guide.