Evidence of PFAS in sanitary and incontinence pads
The findings come on the heels of other testing that found the forever chemicals in some popular tampons.
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.”
Why is fluorine in sanitary products?
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.
What brands had contamination?
Below are the 22 brands that had detectable fluorine.
- Always No Feel Protection Thin Liners — 21 ppm
- Always Discreet 360 Form Fit Maximum Underwear — 15 ppm
- Always Anti-Bunch Xtra Protection Liners — 15 ppm
- Amazon Basics Daily Pantiliners Long Length — 12 ppm
- Attn: Grace Absorbency Liners — 19 ppm
- Carefree Acti-Fresh Unscented Daily Liners — 17 ppm
- Claene Organic Cotton Cover Liners — 22 ppm
- Cora The Got-You-Covered Liner Organic Cotton Topsheet — 30 ppm
- Equate (Walmart) Options Liners — 21 ppm
- Honey Pot 100% Organic Cotton Cover Everyday Liners — 38 ppm
- Incognito by Prevail Liners — 51 ppm
- LastPad Reusable Menstruation Pad by LastObject — 17 ppm
- Maxim Hygiene Organic Cotton Ultra Thin Contour Pads — 27 ppm
- Medline ContourPlus Bladder Control Incontinence Pads — 11 ppm
- My Box Shop 100% US Organic Top Sheet Panty Liner — 11 ppm
- NatraTouch Natural Bamboo Charcoal Panty Liners — 20 ppm
- NIIS GIRL Bamboo Charcoal Luxury Black Pads — 19 ppm
- Rael Organic Cotton Cover Panty Liners — 15 ppm
- Sofy 100% Organic Cotton Cover Pads — 154 ppm
- Veeda Natural Cotton Liners — 11 ppm
- Wise Leak-Proof Everyday Pads for Bladder Protection — 13 pp
- Wombilee Organic Cotton Surface with Wings Biodegradable Pads — 13 ppm
See the full report at Mamavation to see brands that tested clean.
The testing is part of an ongoing effort by Mamavation and EHN.org to identify PFAS in common consumer products. Follow our PFAS testing project with Mamavationat the series landing page.
Want to know more about PFAS? Check out our comprehensive guide.
- Op-ed: PFAS chemicals—the other immune system threat ›
- Investigation: PFAS on our shelves and in our bodies ›
- What are PFAS? ›
- IN DEPTH: First-of-its kind testing points to dangers and unknowns of PFAS in clothing ›
- What are PFAS? - EHN ›