Feminine Hygiene Products: Protect Yourself From Hidden Toxins

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

February 8, 2021

Feminine Hygiene Products: Protect Yourself From Hidden Toxins
Feminine hygiene personal care products have substantially increased in number and variety in recent years. Choices exist with products that are scented, odor eliminating, high absorbency designs, and more. Do you ever wonder what type of chemicals might be in these feminine care products? This question should be of great importance for all women in their reproductive years as there are hidden concerns. The presence of these chemicals cannot be ignored as they not only impact today’s women, but also the health of future generations.

Higher Absorption Rates

The rich vascular supply and warm mucosal lining in vaginal tissues and area makes it highly permeable and sensitive compared to other tissues. This makes it very easy for compounds found in personal hygiene products to be readily absorbed into the blood stream. The high absorption rate of toxins is increased further with vaginal douching

Findings Raise Concern

Recent studies show personal feminine hygiene products contain several endocrine disrupting compounds readily absorbed into tissues. A 2020 study evaluated adult women in New York and personal care products. Products and chemical levels were tested from pads, panty liners, tampons, wipes, deodorant sprays and powers, and bactericidal creams and lotions. They identified 24 known endocrine disrupting compounds with different types of phthalates, parabens, bisphenols, and triclocarban.

The results of the study were revealing and brought concern. All products measured contained various amounts of these endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). The amounts were less than food or other sources. However, because the vaginal tissue is so sensitive, the material and samples tested demonstrated absorption rate of the EDCs at or near 100 percent for many of the products. The rate of absorption in feminine tissue was determined to be “at least ten times higher than those estimated for the absorption rates of the normal skin.”

Very high amounts of phthalates were found in the top layers of pads and panty liners, along with tampons and wipes. Bactericidal creams and solutions, body sprays, and powders contained smaller amounts, but had higher amounts of parabens.

Bisphenols were found in all products, but were of small to moderate levels compared to the other compounds. Triclocarban was the least found compound in the products tested and was primarily found in bactericidal creams, solutions, and deodorant sprays. The daily exposure though for all the products tested were “below the threshold for toxic effects”.

Another 2020 study evaluated 79 different feminine care products and evaluated volatile organic compounds (VOCs). All products evaluated contained some amount of VOCs. Menstrual pads had the highest content of VOCs. Even brands that were labeled as “organic,” “natural,” or “for sensitive skin” still contained measurable VOCs.

Comfort at a Cost?

Pads, panty liners, and tampons are made to be flexible and to move with your body to help absorption and reduce embarrassing accidents. The flexibility of these products is due to plasticizers made from polyethylene and polypropylene materials which contain phthalates. Plasticizers are added to numerous products to make them softer, more flexible, and durable. Phthalates are added to these feminine care products, other personal care products, medical equipment, toys, industrial products and supplies, food storage containers and wraps, and much more.

Pthalates are known endocrine disrupting compounds. They have been linked with infertility in men and women, substantial changes with estrogen metabolism, female cancers, early or precocious puberty, and difficult pregnancies. These chemicals stay in the body unless detoxified and may affect the offspring of women exposed to endocrine disrupting compounds. In males, phthalates cause poor semen quality, testicular and prostate cancer, and undescended testis or other genital malformations.

Phthalates contribute to high blood pressure during pregnancy and also with blood sugar dysregulation, obesity, and impaired metabolism. In addition, phthalates have been linked with cardiovascular concerns such as high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and atherosclerosis in both sexes.


Parabens are used as antimicrobials in feminine care products. They are common preservatives also found in foods, cosmetics, personal care products, and pharmaceutical products and are classified as endocrine disrupting compounds.

Stretch mark creams also contain a high amount of parabens. Even “paraben-free” creams have been found to contain trace amounts of the compound. Considering that these skin creams are used primarily during pregnancy and breastfeeding, this raises significant concern for exposure to the infant.

The CDC states that the effect of low-levels of parabens on human health is unknown. The standards of paraben safety have not changed since the original safety conclusion was completed in 1984. Research, however, shows that parabens are endocrine disrupting compounds and contribute to hormone related cancers, thyroid dysfunction, obesity, and infertility and reproductive concerns in men and women.

Bisphenols, Triclocarban, and VOCs

Bisphenols are endocrine disruptor compounds found in food and beverage containers, dental sealants, and other sources. BPA contributes to estrogen dominance and less androgen hormones. Diminished androgens leads to decreased libido, less testosterone, decreased bone and muscle mass, and more. Bisphenols adversely impact the thyroid and nervous system, and are suspected, or linked, with numerous health concerns. Animal studies show that bisphenol exposure during pregnancy causes abnormal male testicular characteristics and increased infertility. Extensive review studies show bisphenols are adversely linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, ADHD and other mental health challenges in childhood, waist circumference, HDL levels, increased body mass index (BMI) high blood pressure and many other concerns.

Triclocarban is an antibacterial agent similar to triclosan and has been used in personal care and medical products for years. It is considered an endocrine disruptor for humans as well as animals and aquatic life. Human studies show it is linked to increased risk of fetal abnormalities and premature birth.

Volatile organic compound exposures are related with skin irritation, damage to the respiratory tract, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and increase the risk of various cancers.

While these products are not so toxic that they are pulled from the market or create an immediate health hazard, concerns are raised about long-term, repetitive exposure and use. Multiple feminine care products are used for the duration of the menstrual cycle and sometimes in between the normal menses for multiple decades in a woman’s lifetime.

The ultimate concern becomes what is your tolerance and total body burden to these compounds before your body breaks down in response? The questions are also – how do these compounds that enter circulation and stay in your body affect the eggs in your ovaries and genetic programming? These questions and concerns may affect the next two generations of your offspring.

The amount of endocrine disrupting compounds in our world has increased exponentially in the last several decades. We are surrounded by often subtle sources of chemicals in everyday life that has led to a global “chemical soup” that challenges everyone’s health. Surrounded by food, water, personal care products, and thousands of things found in our daily life that contain or give off low levels of chemicals, we all must make choices to reduce as many direct sources as possible.

In addition to choices with food and water supplies and storage, make quality choices about what you use for feminine hygiene needs. Use unscented items, organic cotton products, or other natural materials. Choose organic personal hygiene items to avoid pesticides in non-organic cotton products. Teach your daughters, or discuss with other women in your life, about endocrine disrupting compounds found in personal care products. Make changes with other personal care products like diapers, incontinence pads, wipes, etc.

Support your body with compounds that help with detoxification. Some of the best nutrient choices include indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM), glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine, r-alpha lipoic acid, dandelion root extract, milk thistle, taurine, probiotics, and fiber. Your gut and liver need these nutrients to bind onto toxins that enter your body, remodel them into compounds that are less problematic, and excrete them. Infrared sauna therapy and other activities that cause you to sweat can also be very helpful with detoxification. Making good choices today affects your future and that of generations to come.

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful.

Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and Your Hormones

Why Toxins and Waste Products Impede Weight Loss – The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge #3

Common Household Disinfectants Lead to Obesity in Preschoolers

Precocious Puberty – A Growing Dilemma for Today’s Children

Plastic Outrage – Children in Danger

Monsanto’s Roundup Linked to Cancer, ADHD, Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Is Bisphenol A (BPA) Altering Sexual Behavior in Humans?

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