Do your sanitary pads & incontinence pads contain indications of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals?” Mamavation sent 46 different sanitary pads, panty liners, & incontinence pads to an EPA-certified laboratory looking for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” According to our lab, 48% of those “pads” had indications of PFAS, including several products advertised as “organic” & “natural.” Would you like to know which products were tested and their results? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like tampons without PFAS, period underwear without PFAS, and dental floss without PFAS. Now join us as we bring you our latest consumer study on indications of PFAS in sanitary pads, panty liners, & incontinence pads with results from our lab. If you would like to see the raw data, simply scroll down close to the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: This consumer study is released in partnership with Environmental Health News. Scientific reviews were performed by (1) Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, (2) Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar at Residence at Duke University, North Carolina University, & Yale University, (3) Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future, & (4) Scott Belcher, Associate Professor with the Center for Environmental & Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University. This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. Donations were provided by Environmental Health News and Mamavation community members. Mamavation has only “spot-checked” the industry and thus we cannot make predictions about brands and products that we have not tested. Products and manufacturing aides can change without notice so buyer beware. This post contains affiliate links, with some to Amazon, which means Mamavation will receive a portion of those sales and we will use that to pay ourselves back for the testing. You can also give a tax-deductible donation to our consumer studies here through Environmental Health Sciences. Click “yes” when asked if the gift is in honor of someone and type “Mamavation.” Thank you!
Table of Contents
Mamavation’s Lab Finds Indications of PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Inside “Pads” like Sanitary Pads, Panty Liners, & Incontinence Pads
PFAS “forever chemicals” are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances used for many decades as stain-resistant, oil-resistant, & water-resistant chemicals in commerce. These chemicals reside in many places in our lives and are linked to serious health effects (we will go over soon). PFAS chemicals were used for decades inside consumer products, as manufacturing aides, and inside building materials. From Teflon Cookware to StainMaster Carpets, Americans have been awash in PFAS chemicals. Because they are so toxic, Mamavation has commissioned our own consumer studies on indications of PFAS in order to make consumer recommendations of period care products.
For this consumer study, Mamavation sent 46 sanitary pads, panty liners, and incontinence pads off to an EPA-certified laboratory and discovered 48% of those products had indications of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals.”
Here’s what our EPA-certified laboratory found:
- 48% of sanitary pads, incontinence pads, and panty liners sent to our EPA-certified laboratory had indications of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals.” 22 products were found to have detections of organic fluorine, a marker for PFAS, out of 46 products tested.
- Ranges of organic fluorine reported by the lab were from 11 to 154 parts per million (ppm).
- Out of the 22 products with detections of organic fluorine, 13 of them were advertised as “organic,” “natural,” “non-toxic,” “sustainable,” or using “no harmful chemicals.” All organic fluorine chemicals are man-made, toxic, and very persistent.
- A natural, organic, or clean claim has no bearing on PFAS contamination in pads. 13 out of 18 products that were advertised as “organic,” “natural,” “non-toxic,” “sustainable,” or using “no harmful chemicals” were found to have indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” inside. Again, organic fluorine chemicals are man-made toxic, and very persistent. Therefore, the marketing of this category does not match what the labs are finding.
Our scientific advisor, Linda Birnbaum, Former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program & Scholar in Residence at Duke University, and adjunct professor at University of North Carolina, & Yale University had something to say about the findings. “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!”
Health Effects Linked to PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
PFAS “forever chemicals” are problematic to human health and the environment. They are considered ubiquitous, persistent, and toxic. Many of these chemicals can last for years or decades in our bodies. Therefore, it’s imperative to reduce the amount of PFAS you are exposed to from food, water, and personal care products such as sanitary pads, panty liners, & incontinence pads.
Below are listed health impacts from exposure to PFAS in general:
- Reduction in immunity
- Reduced vaccination response
- Increased risk of allergies & asthma in young children
- Affected growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- Increase cholesterol levels
- Metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lowered a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- Lowered male fertility
- Increased risk of kidney & testicular cancers
- Causes endocrine disruption
- Disrupted normal thyroid function
We may not be able to tell you if or how much PFAS will leach into the body from exposure around the vagina. But we do know that PFAS exposure is possible based on some studies looking at dermal exposure in animals. It’s also very clear based on biomonitoring evidence from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that PFAS resides in most of Americans.
Can Dermal Exposure to PFAS from a Sanitary Pad Be Problematic?
Sanitary pads can also be referred to as sanitary napkins, maxi pads, feminine care pads, or menstrual pads. They are an intimate exposure. Each product is a type of padded top sheet filled with an absorbent material core and a back layer of polyethylene with a sticky strip on the back that affixes to your underwear. Sometimes sanitary pads are made from materials like organic cotton, but most of the time it’s full of synthetic materials or mixed with some “natural” materials. Most conventional sanitary pads are full of additives and fragrances to control odors. These pads catch all your menstrual blood so it doesn’t leak on your clothes and garments.
It’s unclear what the extent of the danger is from exposure to PFAS from a “pad.” But just because we don’t know the extent of the danger does not mean there is no danger. We just don’t have the details. However, it’s also important to know that we do have some animal studies that can paint a better picture of how serious dermal exposure to PFAS is.
- One study found that dermal exposure to PFBA demonstrated effects on the liver and showed similar results to oral PFBA and PFOA exposure.
- Another study found that dermal exposure is similar to oral exposure to PFOA and can be immunotoxic.
- One study looking at PFAS in infant car seats found that PFAS can migrate from fabric to sweat, suggesting a potential risk of dermal exposure.
However, it’s still assumed that food & water are the most prevalent pathways for PFAS to get into your body. Mamavation discussed dermal exposure with Pete Myers, Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Author of Our Stolen Future. We wanted to know how much PFAS could be absorbed through the skin after the usage of a sanitary pad. “While it’s not possible today to answer the question of how much can be absorbed through the skin, we do know that any possible exposure should be avoided. PFAS should not be found in consumer items, period!”
Sending Toxic “Pads” to the Landfill
The sanitary napkin market around the globe is huge, estimated to be $20 billion in 2017 and expected to grow to $27 billion by 2025. But what happens to these billions of sanitary napkins after they are used? They go to the landfill.
The introduction of fossil fuels to the sanitary napkin industry has created an environmental nightmare at landfills. The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm found that the processing of LDPE (low-density polyethylene) used in the plastic back-strip of the sanitary napkin was the slowest part of the sanitary napkin to breakdown and had the largest impact on environmental pollution and heaviest dependence on fossil fuels.
Forbes India reports it takes between 500-800 years for a sanitary pad to decompose in a landfill. But are all these details similar to the United States?
Other processing chemicals, like PFAS, can also be found in trace amounts and can find their way to landfills. The “fluffy” absorbent material is typically made from bleached pulp or viscose rayon, which is essentially wood pulp. Heavy use of chemicals is needed to process the raw materials down to something fluffy and soft.
We know the exact brand that more than 1/3 of Americans select for sanitary pads based on available records and can then extrapolate the vast majority of what materials are breaking down in landfills across the United States. According to Dr. Aakanksha Mehrotra, Director of Toxics Link environmental group in India, “an average female throughout her reproductive age uses and disposes of around 11,000-15,000 sanitary pads and the most commonly used sanitary products are made up of plastics.” However, there was no mention of PFAS in this study.
Considering what the most popular sanitary napkin products have been from 2011 to 2020, we can look at the ingredients of those brands to get a good idea of what is breaking down in landfills and exposing the environment:
- Most popular American brand — Always. Three Always products we tested at an EPA-certified lab had indications of PFAS ranging in organic fluorine from 15 to 20 parts per million. These products also contained ingredients like polyester, polyethylene, titanium dioxide, polyethylene glycols (PEGs), dyes & colorants made from petroleum, and an undisclosed “fragrance” that will expose the environment as it breaks down in a landfill. From 2011 to 2020, Always had between 35 to 40% of the sanitary pad market share.
- 2nd Most Popular Brand — Kotex. Kotex was sent to the lab and we got a non-detect, meaning the lab did not find indications of PFAS. Kotex also contains similar ingredients to Always, but in addition, they add more petroleum-derived hydrogenated mineral oil. From 2011 to 2020, Kotex had between 13 to 19% of the market share.
- 3rd Most Popular Brand — Stayfree. Stayfree was sent to the lab and we got a non-detect, meaning the lab did not find indications of PFAS. We have no idea what ingredients are used because they do not disclose. From 2011 to 2020, Stayfree had between 9 to 12% of the market share.
Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University reminds us of the persistence of PFAS.
“PFAS compounds are ‘forever’ because nature cannot effectively decompose them at any stage of their lifecycles. The detoxifying enzymes of a woman’s body are no match for the stability of PFAS compounds. Most attacks mounted by related enzymes throughout the environment, including in the microbes found in landfills, will also be immune to decomposition. Just as they will persist in a woman’s body after gaining entry, PFAS compounds will persist in a landfill when most of the other chemical components are long since degraded. Some may start moving broadly afield in landfill leachate water. And many are known to possess insidious toxicity through endocrine disruption mechanisms where possible outcomes include altered development of the progeny of women using the pads as well as the aquatic life that will inevitably be exposed following landfill disposal.”
Newly Disclosed Ingredients Inside Sanitary Pads Thanks to the State of New York!
In 2019, New York became the very first state to require manufacturers of menstrual pads to disclose “all intentionally added ingredients.” Hats off to Clean+Healthy New York & Women’s Voices for the Earth for their support of this legislation behind the scenes.
Progress in ingredient disclosure has already progressed since the law took effect. It used to be that the only disclosure behind materials and additives used around menstrual pads were the following: cotton, rayon, wood cellulose (or fluff pulp), absorbant foam, super absorbent polymers (SAP), polyester, adhesive, colorants, and fragrance.
Since then, Women’s Voices for the Earth evaluated the disclosure of ingredients inside sanitary pads, tampons, and other menstrual products in their report What’s in Your Period Product? According to WVE, period product companies are making more disclosures about the ingredients and materials in their products after the New York law took effect. As of today, we counted 65 disclosed ingredients on sanitary pads. But here are some challenges:
- Sometimes the disclosures lack details in terms of details for “fragrance,” “ink,” “surfactant,” & “adhesive.” In other words, some brands are not complying fully with this law yet and are hiding ingredients.
- Some of these sanitary pad brands were rumored to have reformulated some of the worst chemicals out of their products before the disclosure law took effect. Consumers reported changes in some brands, so we really have no way of knowing what chemicals you may have been exposed to in the past.
- We do not know what all sanitary pads are made from in other states because the laws in those other states are different and do not require disclosure.
- We know NOTHING about incontinence pads because the New York law didn’t include those types of products.
Would the chemicals in sanitary pads be similar to chemicals in incontinence pads? Not necessarily based on what we know about what they are designed to do. Incontinence pads are not meant for menstrual blood, but for urinary incontinence, so they are mostly geared toward heavy leakage and may more commonly contain fragrances or other types of chemicals to control odors.
It’s very common for women to need incontinence products for incontinence protection after giving birth vaginally. This loss of bladder control is very common for women and can get worse over time. According to a study on incontinence done in 2018, “incontinence in women is typically related to dysfunction of the bladder or pelvic floor muscles, with such dysfunction often arising during pregnancy or childbirth, or at the time of menopause.” It’s also possible for urinary incontinence to be inherited.
Problematic Ingredients Inside Menstrual Pads, Panty Liners, & Incontinence Pads
Mamavation has pulled together a list of known chemical categories to avoid when purchasing menstrual pads, panty liners, and incontinence pads. Some of these chemicals were found in disclosures of sanitary pad brands. However, it’s unknown what all the ingredients are present in incontinence pads because there are no laws mandating ingredient disclosure for that product.
Fragrances in sanitary pads can be problematic. Even natural ingredients can be irritating to people who are sensitive. “Fragrance” is either made from petroleum or botanical raw materials or both. It also contains ingredients like solvents, stabilizers, UV absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. These types of chemicals vary in toxicity.
But there is lots of mystery surrounding “fragrance” in personal care products. Companies that make perfume buy chemicals from other companies called “fragrance houses.” This means it is possible for a brand to not even know the fragrance chemicals inside their own product. This may be more common in other types of personal care product categories where disclosure laws do not exist. However, as companies and states are moving toward fragrance ingredient disclosure, this is slowly starting to change.
Phthalates are commonly used as a solvent (a liquid that can dissolve other substances) and fixative (a substance that can help fragrance last longer on the skin) inside fragrances. The most common phthalate inside fragrance is diethylphthalate (DEP) and it’s considered toxic by the Toxic Substances Portal of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The trade name of this chemical is also known as neantine, peilatinol A, and solvanol.
Colorants & Dyes
Colorants and dyes are primarily used for cosmetic reasons and do not impact the function of a sanitary pad. The problem with dyes is they are sometimes linked to cancer, organ toxicity, & aquatic destruction. In this case, they are completely unneeded.
Examples of colorants and dyes found in sanitary pad disclosures are titanium dioxide, Pigment Blue 15, Pigment Yellow 83, Pigment Red 48:2, Black 2, Pigment red 57:2, Pigment White 6, Pigment Violet 23, Pigment white 21, Solvent blue 104, polyodyalkylene substituted chromophore (blue), Pigment red 52:1. We have no idea what colorants or dyes are found in incontinence pads.
Polyethylene Glycol or PEGs
Polyethylene glycol (PEGs) are used as penetration enhancers. They allow the blood to penetrate the pad quickly. PEGs are typically followed by a number. The lower the number, the easier the penetration of other chemicals. However, contaminants can be released during the manufacturing process of PEGs. This may expose consumers to ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, which are known human carcinogens that may interfere with human development and can harm the nervous system.
We found some examples of PEGs in disclosures from the report produced by Women’s Voices for the Earth for sanitary pads only: PEG-15 cocoate, Peg-10 castor oil, Peg-10 dimethicone, Peg-10 laurate, Peg-10 oleate, & PEG-11 castor oil. We have no idea what PEG chemicals are found in incontinence pads.
Dioxins & Furans
These are highly toxic compounds that contaminate sanitary pads, pantiliners, & incontinence pad products in trace amounts when they are bleached with chlorine compounds. Most American sanitary brands abandoned this practice in the 90’s, however, we are unsure about the practices of brands imported to the United States from other countries. We made sure to include some international brands in our study.
Exposure to dioxins and furans has been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption, among other health effects. One 20-year-old consumer study found a small but detectable amount of dioxins in four unidentified brands of tampons. Dioxins & furans would not be included as ingredients on the label but would be found in trace amounts unintentionally and thus not stated.
Synthetic Fibers like Rayon
Rayon is known as artificial silk, but it’s made from purified cellulose. The process of making rayon fiber includes a solution of carbon disulfide, which is known as a harmful chemical.
Women’s Voices for the Earth found carbon disulfide in trace amounts in all tampons they tested made from rayon in 2018. The all-cotton tampons they tested did not have any trace amounts of carbon disulfide, therefore Mamavation requires products to be made of cotton to gain access to “better” or “best” recommendations.
When your sanitary pad is made from natural cotton instead of rayon, there’s still some concern about pesticide residues from conventional cotton production placed up against the vagina. Cotton is one of the “dirtiest” food crops because it’s not treated as a food substance (even though cottonseed oil is a staple in processed food). Cotton is treated as fiber and thus, pesticides are used more indiscriminately.
In fact, in India, cotton is only produced on 5% of the arable farming land yet it consumes 50% of the pesticides. Cotton is also a very popular genetically modified (GMO) crop and thus is sprayed with glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Parabens & Bisphenols like BPA
One study in 2020 found 24 endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), comprising nine phthalates, six parabens, eight bisphenols, and triclocarban (TCC) inside feminine hygiene products (i.e., pads, panty liners, tampons, wipes, bactericidal creams and solutions, and deodorant sprays and powders).
Petroleum, Petrolatum, or Mineral oil
These chemicals are byproducts of petroleum refining. It’s useful in personal care products because it has a melting point close to our body temperature, which causes it to soften upon application. It creates an effective barrier against the evaporation of our skin’s natural moisture and against foreign particles and microorganisms.
When petroleum is properly refined as in “white petroleum” it has no known health effects. But there is no way for consumers to know if that type of safer refining has happened or not. The concern is petroleum contains trace amounts of contaminants linked to cancer called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.
Ethoxylated ingredients on their own are not of concern, but they could contain trace amounts of ingredients that are linked with cancer–1,4-dioxane & ethylene oxide. You can spot ethoxylated ingredients because most of them end with -eth.
How Does PFAS Get Into Sanitary Pads, Pantiliners, & Incontinence Pads?
How do PFAS “forever chemicals” get inside our sanitary pads, pantiliners, & incontinence pads? The official answer is we don’t know. However, Mamavation is knowledgeable of shared experiences from brands reformulating their products behind the scenes to PFAS-free products. We’ve pulled some of these experiences for you as some possibilities that may also be true in this category of feminine care needs.
- Moisture-wicking Fabric: Could it be the “moisture-wicking” or “stay dry” fabric” that is used on top or inside the product? In past PFAS consumer studies commissioned by Mamavation, other types of fabrics that were advertised as “moisture-wicking” like sports bras or yoga pants indeed had indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” at similar levels. Mamavation also found indications of these chemicals in toilet paper as well.
- Additives & Lubricants: Could it be the manufacturing additives & lubricants used at the factory? This popped up as an explanation by some of our experts as to why food products marinara & tomato sauces, cooking oils, & nut butters had detections.
- Plastics: Could fluorinated plastic exposure be a contamination problem? Fluorinated plastic packaging and storage have become a consistent problem in the green beauty makeup industry behind the scenes. We heard stories about plastic manufacturers not being transparent about their fluorination process when selling packaging. We also heard about plastic storage being a problem as well. Could this plastic perplexity be happening in other industries? It’s a possibility.
- Errors and Omissions by Manufacturer: Most sanitary pad brands behind the scenes do not own the manufacturing equipment used to make their products. So in order to produce their product(s), they must use another manufacturer. Depending on the type of product, they could be using several manufacturers at the same time to do different types of products so it can get complicated very quickly. Mamavation was privy to a couple of situations where a brand caught the error or misstatement of a manufacturer behind the scenes. For example, raw materials could have been swapped out without their knowledge. This happened quite a bit during the Pandemic supply chain shutdown.
- Making Statements Before Verifying: There have been several instances where Mamavation has found indications of PFAS inside a product from a brand that has made statements about being “PFAS-free” in their marketing materials. In several instances when interviewed, it’s clear they did not run their own independent tests on organic fluorine to be able to ascertain whether they are truly free of ALL PFAS.
Other Menstrual Options Mamavation Tested — Period Underwear & Tampons
There are so many different period products available for you to use during that time of the month. Especially if you have a heavier flow day. So what types of feminine care products have Mamavation already tested for indication of PFAS “forever chemicals?” Period Underwear & Tampons.
Period Underwear Tested for Indications of PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
In a prior investigation, Mamavation sent 21 brands of period underwear off to our EPA-certified laboratory looking for total fluorine–another broader marker for PFAS “forever chemicals.” Out of the 21 brands we sent, these were the seven brands that had non-detect test results, meaning our lab could not find any indications of PFAS. Many of these brands reached out to us after the study was originally done and wanted to offer our audience discounts, so we worked together to make that happen to offer you safer period underwear at a discounted price.
- Lilova (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMAVATION15” for 15% off your order.
- Aisle (formerly known as Lunapads) (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMAVATION_10” for $10 off any order over $35 placed on periodaisle.com here.
- Bambody (no fluorine detected)
- Intimate Portal (no fluorine detected)
- Period (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMA” for a special sale of “Buy 3 panties and get 1 free”
- Modibodi (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMAV10” for 10% off orders over $100 for new customers. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer, on sale, gift cards, or bundle packs. Limit one per customer.
- Revol (no fluorine detected) Use discount code “MAMAVATION” for 15% off your first purchase.
Tampons Tested for Indications of PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
In another investigation on feminine hygiene products, Mamavation sent 23 tampons off to an EPA-certified lab looking for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals” and they were found in 22% of those products. These were the “best” brands from that study.
- Honey Pot Organically Grown Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- Live Better (CVS) Organic Cotton Tampons regular — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Lola Super Tampons Made with 100% organic cotton — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- o.b. Organic 100% Organic cotton – regular — non-detect organic fluorine
- OI Girl Organic Regular Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- My Box Shop 32 Organic Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Natracare Organic Tampons with applicator — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Seventh Generation Organic Cotton Tampons — non-detect organic fluorine
- TOP Organic Cotton Tampons with plant-based compact applicator — non-detect organic fluorine (incomplete disclosure)
- Viv for your V Organic Cotton Tampons with Plant-based applicator — non-detect organic fluorine
Mamavation Shares Raw Data of Sanitary Pads & Incontinence Pads
To recap, Mamavation sent 46 sanitary pads, incontinence pads, & panty liners to an EPA-certified laboratory looking for indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” In order for our lab to do this, they have to perform special testing. They do not look for PFAS compounds directly, because that’s simply impossible. There are over 12,000 PFAS compounds and assays available for less than 100 compounds exist in a really good commercial lab.
Testing: Mamavation’s lab uses marker testing to identify the potential presence of PFAS “forever chemicals” in menstrual products. Organic fluorine is a marker for PFAS because all PFAS chemicals are carbon-based compounds that contain fluorine. The specific lab method used by Mamavation tested for total fluorine was the Determination of Total Fluorine by Oxygen Flask Combustion and Ion-Selective Electrode. If total fluorine was observed at a detection level of 10 ppm, the lab did the Determination of free Fluoride Ion in the product by Ion-Selective Electrode and then subtracted that from the Total Fluorine to determine the amount of organic fluorine. This marker testing is likely to show the presence of PFAS. Organic fluorine can also capture other fluoropolymers, pharmaceuticals, and common hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, such as 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane (commonly known as R-134a) and 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (commonly known as HFO-1234yf). None of which you want around your vagina!
Scott Belcher, Ph.D. & Associate Professor with the Center for Environmental & Health Effects of PFAS at North Carolina State University says “fluoropolymers, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or Teflon®, are extremely common forms of PFAS that can be contributing to the organic fluorine found in menstrual products. Methods used for detecting individual PFAS, such as PFOA or GenX, cannot directly identify PTFE. However, the analysis of total organic fluorine does account for all PFAS contaminants in menstrual pads, including PTFE. Therefore, this method of testing serves as a good ‘spot-check’ of consumer products.”
What We Tested: We tested close to every brand that was recommended by the Mamavation community. In total, we tested 46 “pads” advertised as the following: sanitary pads used for catching menstrual blood, organic pads, sanitary napkins, menstrual pads, feminine care pads, bladder control pads for urine, light incontinence pads, overnight pads, extra heavy overnight pads, reusable cloth pads, pads made for sensitive skin, pads for various absorbency levels, latex-free pads, briefs sold as leak guards, & pantiliners for occasional leaks. These pads were purchased from Amazon, Target, Rite Aid, & other local retail stores and were donated by community members between January and October 2022.
Not Our Favorite Sanitary Pads, Panty Liners, & Incontinence Pads
These sanitary pads, panty liners, & incontinence pads were sent to an EPA-certified laboratory and were reported to contain organic fluorine, which is an indicator of PFAS. We have marked the ones that were advertised as organic, natural, non-toxic, sustainable, using no harmful chemicals, or eco-friendly with a *.
- Always No Feel Protection Thin Liners — 21 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Always Discreet 360 Form Fit Maximum Underwear — 15 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Always Anti-Bunch Xtra Protection Liners — 15 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Amazon Basics Daily Pantiliners Long Length — 12 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Attn: Grace Light Absorbency Liners — 19 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Carefree Acti-Fresh Unscented Daily Liners — 17 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Claene Organic Cotton Cover Liners — 22 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Cora The Got-You-Covered Liner Organic Cotton Topsheet — 30 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Equate (Walmart) Options Liners Light Bladder Leakage Protection — 21 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Honey Pot 100% Organic Cotton Cover Everyday Liners — 38 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Incognito by Prevail Liners — 51 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Last Pad Reusable Menstruation Pad by Last Object — 17 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Maxim Hygiene Organic Cotton Ultra Thin Contour Pads — 27 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Medline Contour Plus Bladder Pads — 11 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *My Box Shop 100% US Organic Top Sheet Panty Liner — 11 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *NatraTouch Natural Bamboo Charcoal Panty Liners — 20 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *NIIS GIRL Bamboo Charcoal Luxury Black Pads — 19 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Rael Organic Cotton Cover Panty Liners — 15 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Softy 100% Organic Cotton Cover Pads — 154 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Veeda Natural Cotton Liners — 11 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- Wise Leak-Proof Everyday Pads for Bladder Protection — 13 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
- *Wombilee Organic Cotton Surface with Wings Biodegradable Pads — 13 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
Better Sanitary Pads & Incontinence Pads
These sanitary pads, pantiliners, & incontinence pads are far better. All of the products listed in this category had non-detect organic fluorine results, meaning our lab did not find any indications of PFAS “forever chemicals.” However, in some instances, these brands are either known to use other additives or are not made from organic cotton. In other instances, “organic” products in this category may be using additives like titanium dioxide that we would like to avoid.
- August Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Always Maxi with Flex-wings — non-detect organic fluorine
- Carefree Breathe Ultra Thin Pads Overnight — non-detect organic fluorine
- Depends DryShield Fit-Flex Underwear — non-detect organic fluorine
- Depend Silhouette Invisible Comfort & Protection Maximum Absorbency Underwear — non-detect organic fluorine
- Kindfully Made Bamboo Based Pad Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- L. 100% Pure Cotton Ultra Thin Pads — non-detect organic fluorine
- L. Life Proof Incontinence Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Poise One 2-in-1 Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Poise Daily Liners Discreet Bladder Protection — non-detect organic fluorine
- Poise Bladder Leakage Protection Pads — non-detect organic fluorine
- Prevail Daily Ultra Thin Pads For Bladder Leaks — non-detect organic fluorine
- U by Kotex Security Lightdays Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Stayfree Maxi All-in-one Regular Pads — non-detect organic fluorine
- Tena Intimates Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Up & Up (Target) Regular Liners Unscented — non-detect organic fluorine
Best Sanitary Pads & Incontinence Pads
These are the recommended sanitary pads, pantiliners, and incontinence pads. These “pads” were sent to our EPA-certified lab and were non-detect. Each pad also contains organic cotton, so we are more confident they will not have problematic pesticide residues.
- Le Fresh Organic Cotton Large Pads — non-detect organic fluorine
- Live Better (CVS) Organic Cotton Pantiliners — non-detect organic fluorine
- Livlit Organic Cotton Cover Pads — non-detect organic fluorine
- Lola Ultra Thin Liners Made with 100% Organic Cotton — non-detect organic fluorine
- Natracare Panty Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
- OrganYc Feminine Care Liners Light Flow — non-detect organic fluorine
- Sandis Organic Cotton Panty Liners — non-detect organic fluorine
Additional Mamavation Investigations To Help Your Family
Mamavation has been working hard to discover where to find PFAS “forever chemicals” inside food & other products we purchase and bring inside our homes. This is why we have decided to commission our own consumer studies on indications of PFAS in different consumer categories and share that information with you.
- Soft Contact Lenses
- Green Beauty Makeup
- Dental Floss
- Toilet Paper
- Period Underwear
- Sanitary Pads, Pantiliners, & Incontinence Pads
- Powdered Electrolytes
- Butter Wrappers
- Pasta & Tomato Sauces
- Nut Butters (Peanut butter, etc.)
- Cooking Oils (olive oil, almond oil, canola oil, etc)
- Activewear (Yoga Pants)
- Sports Bras
- Parchment Paper
- Cupcake Liners
- Plastic-Free Straws
- Fast Food Packaging
- Children’s Probiotics
- Kids’ Backpacks
- Baby Strollers
We also have other non-toxic investigations on products for your children or the rest of your family. Here are some that we thought you may like.
- Best Yoga mats
- Best Infrared Saunas
- Best Organic Mattresses
- Best Air purifiers
- Best Cookware
- Best Plant-Based Milks
- Best Water Filters for PFAS Filtration
- Best Collagen
- Best Electrolyte Replacement Drinks, Sports Drinks, & Coconut Water
- Best Infrared Saunas
- Best Bubble Bath
Click here for a complete list of product investigations.