Questions raised about PFAS in period products

January 27, 2023 – Reusable “period underwear” that people use in place of traditional, disposable menstrual products may contain toxic compounds linked with long-term health risks.

A January 20 New York Times article discussed a recently settled lawsuit involving the period underwear brand Thinx. The suit alleged that Thinx underwear contains chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These water- and stain-resistant compounds—called “forever chemicals” because they accumulate in the environment and in people’s bodies and don’t degrade—are widely used in consumer products, from cookware to cleaning products to cosmetics. Studies have linked PFAS with issues such as period irregularities, ovarian disorders, high blood pressure in pregnant people, and risk of low birthweight in babies exposed in utero.

Experts worry about how PFAS affects the body during vulnerable phases, such as when someone gets their first period, is pregnant, or is undergoing menopause, said Shruthi Mahalingaiah, assistant professor of environmental, reproductive, and women’s health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Mahalingaiah noted that she had purchased a pair of period underwear for her daughter, choosing what she thought were organic or natural products. “If I, someone with expertise, still have difficulties identifying what’s safe for my children, I don’t suspect it’s any easier for anyone else,” she said.

It’s unclear whether other period products contain PFAS or other toxins because they’re not rigorously tested by the Food and Drug Administration and manufacturers aren’t required to list all the materials used in them, according to the article.

Read the New York Times article: What to Know About PFAS in Period Underwear