The average menstruator will use over 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime. The vaginal and vulva tissue that pads and tampons touch is extremely permeable. Through this permeable tissue, chemicals are absorbed without being metabolized, which makes endocrine-disrupting chemicals potentially dangerous when found in menstrual products. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can affect human hormones and cause medical problems, including gynecological conditions such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Mason Public Health PhD student Joanna Marroquin and Associate Professor Anna Pollack reviewed studies from 2103 that measured chemicals in menstrual products and measured human biomarkers of chemical exposure and determined that endocrine-disrupting chemicals system were found in menstrual products, including tampons. , pads and liners.
“Identifying chemicals in menstrual products that menstruators use regularly is important because exposure through these products can affect the reproductive health of menstruators,” said Marroquin, first author of the paper.
The study found that menstrual products contain a variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including phthalates, volatile organic compounds, parabens, environmental phenols, fragrance chemicals, dioxins, and dioxin-like compounds.
This issue is even more relevant thanks to the Robin Danielson Menstrual Product Safety and Home Care Product Safety Act of 2023, which was introduced in the US House of Representatives in October 2023. The law would establish a research program about the dangers posed by the presence of dioxins, phthalates, pesticides, chemical fragrances and other ingredients in menstrual products and personal care products.
This literature reviewed 15 papers published between 2013 and 2023 that tested menstrual products in the US, Japan and South Korea. The researchers note that there are few publications available that measure the chemicals in menstrual products.
Additionally, although chemicals forever (PFAS) have been found in period underwear, there is a lack of peer-reviewed research on period underwear and other recently popular products in the US, such as menstrual cups and pads.
Chemicals in menstrual products: A systematic review was published in BJOGan international journal of obstetrics and gynecology in September 2023. Additional authors include Marianthi-Anna Kiomurtzoglou of the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and Alexandra Scranton of Women’s Voices for the Earth.
Research was supported by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences award R01ES31079 to Pollack.