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Are ‘Forever Chemicals’ Lurking in Period Products? A Comprehensive Insight for Complementary Medical Practitioners

Forever Chemicals
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Are ‘Forever Chemicals’ Lurking in Period Products? A Comprehensive Insight for Complementary Medical Practitioners

In the ever-evolving sphere of women’s health and wellness, the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in period products has become a topic of great concern. A recent study spearheaded by Dr Graham Peaslee at the prestigious Notre Dame University, Indiana, and published by the respected American Chemical Society (ACS), has brought to light the alarming presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – infamously known as ‘forever chemicals’ – in several period products and their packaging. As advocates for natural health and wellbeing, it is essential for us all to dive deep into these findings and understand how to foster a safer environment for ourselves, our families, and our clients.

Uncovering the Truth about PFAS in Period Products

The presence of PFAS, a class of chemicals with prolonged degradation time, in various period products including tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and reusable underwear was unveiled at the recent 2023 American Chemical Society fall meeting. Interestingly, the researchers were surprised to find high concentrations of these substances in the outer layers and packaging of several products, a possible strategy to maintain dryness and prevent leakage.

As professionals immersed in the world of natural health, it is incumbent upon us to probe further into these findings and explore viable alternatives for the health and safety of people who menstruate globally.

What are the Health Implications of PFAS?

‘Forever chemicals’, PFAS, are known to linger in the body, potentially causing hormonal disruptions, reproductive issues, and immune suppression, among other health problems. The long-term exposure to these chemicals can even escalate the risks of severe health conditions including:

Cancer

Liver and kidney damage

Cardiovascular disease

Obesity

Diabetes

Immune system dysfunction

Despite these alarming connections, the exact relationship between PFAS exposure and these medical conditions remains somewhat unclear. It is important for us, as health professionals, to emphasise the necessity for heightened awareness and precaution to all, especially as PFAS are not listed as ingredients on product labels, thus leaving consumers in the dark about their exposure levels.

Environmental Concerns Surrounding PFAS 

Apart from the evident health risks, the persistent nature of PFAS raises significant environmental concerns. These substances do not break down easily in the environment, therefore, they have the potential to contaminate water sources, and bioaccumulate in aquatic life. There needs to be a larger focus of ongoing research regarding the environmental impact of these chemicals, especially when they reach landfills.

Protecting Yourself from PFAS Exposure: Top Tips from The CMA 

In the wake of these revelations about the permanence and toxicity of PFAS, the focus must shift towards adopting safer alternatives to conventional period products.

Here are some vital steps to consider for reducing the risk of PFAS exposure:

Opt for organic products: Choose menstrual products that are organic and devoid of synthetic chemicals.

Seek PFAS-free labels: Look for products labeled as ‘PFAS-free’ to ensure safety.

Mind your diet: Avoid consuming food and water from sources contaminated with PFAS to reduce your overall exposure.

While it is possible that the majority of period products do not contain PFAS, it is vital to remain cautious and opt for products that definitely do not compromise health.

Consider These Alternative Period Products:

In light of the recent studies uncovering the presence of PFAS in some period products, now more than ever, it is imperative to explore and embrace safer alternatives. Here is a list that you can share that features some healthy options to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our clients – thus safeguarding against the potential dangers associated with ‘forever chemicals’:

Organic Cotton Products

Organic cotton tampons and pads are free from synthetic chemicals, including PFAS. They are not only kind to your body but also more environmentally friendly compared to their conventional counterparts.

Menstrual Cups

These reusable silicone cups are a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads. Since they are made from medical-grade silicone, rubber, latex, or elastomer, they do not contain harmful chemicals found in some disposable products. Check that the packaging is PFAS-free though – if in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

Reusable Cloth Pads

Crafted from natural fibres, these pads are free of hazardous chemicals. They are also a more sustainable choice as they can be washed and reused, reducing the amount of waste generated each month.

Period Underwear

These are specially designed undergarments that help to absorb menstrual blood, offering a comfortable and safe alternative to traditional period products. Opt for brands that clearly state they are free of PFAS and other harmful chemicals.

Organic Period Subscription Boxes

To make the switch easier, consider subscribing to a service that delivers organic and chemical-free period products right to your door every month.

Community and Online Forums

Join communities or online forums where you can share and gather information on reliable brands offering natural and safe period products.

Educate Yourself – and Advocate

As complementary medical and natural health professionals, we are at the forefront of fostering a community that values health and wellness. It is our duty to stay abreast of such vital developments and guide our clients in making informed choices. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and our clients to work collectively towards promoting safer alternatives and nurturing a health-conscious society.

Stay tuned for more updates on this pressing topic, and remember, your health is our priority!

For more insights and recommendations on research, news, and useful healthy living tips, remember to revisit The CMA website frequently as we bring you the latest updates. Also – please feel free to share this newsletter to your friends, family, and your colleagues – why not also forward it to your clients – so that they too can stay abreast of all the latest natural health news? The CMA newsletter comes out weekly and is an incredible free resource of valuable health and wellness information.  

References

Indicator of PFAS found in some – but not all – period products. American Chemical Society. News Release 10 August 2023.

Further Reading

For an excellent analysis of the potential risks of PFAS exposure and accumulation within our tissues and their ability to cross the blood brain barrier affecting health and even our behaviour, please take a look at this excellent paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Toxicology:

Starnes HM, Rock KD, Jackson TW, Belcher SM. A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of Impacts of Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances on the Brain and Behavior. Front Toxicol. 11 April 2022;4:881584. doi: 10.3389/ftox.2022.881584. PMID: 35480070; PMCID: PMC9035516.

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