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Period Products

March 2024


Why we should know what our period products contain.


Many well-known brands of tampons, sanitary pads, menstrual cups and period underwear, readily available on the high street, are full of endocrine disrupters (these are chemicals that interfere with our hormonal system).

Our thyroid, sex hormones and reproductive system are those most at risk from these harmful chemicals.

Below I will discuss each product and provide my recommendations on the cleanest brands available.


What you’ll often find in high street brands of tampons and sanitary pads and why they are a problem:


Genetically Modified (GMO) Cotton:

75% of all cotton is now genetically modified to make them resistant to insects, diseases and lack of water – equalling a larger harvest for the cotton farmers and less reliance on pesticides.

Sounds good yes? Unfortunately no.

The modified cotton seeds are now resistant to a herbicide called glyphosate, used by farmers to kill the weeds without harming the cotton crops. However, although they are resistant, they still absorb the glyphosate which makes it into the end product – in this case your tampons and sanitary pads.


Glyphosate is a known endocrine disrupter and exhibits oestrogen like properties, disrupting hormone function with adverse consequences for reproductive health. Glyphosate has also been linked to the development of PCOS.



This is a synthetic fibre made from wood pulp. It is cheaper than cotton and is often found in both tampons and sanitary pads. Although great for absorption, it contains dioxins which are a chemical by-product from the chlorine bleaching process used to remove impurities for use in sanitary products. Dioxins are potent and are a known endocrine disrupter. Dioxins can have a half-life in humans of between 6-11 years so it’s important to stay away from products containing these as much as possible from an early age.


Carbon Disulphide:

Where you find rayon you’ll most likely find carbon disulphide too as it is used in the manufacture of rayon. It is a solvent (yes, think paint stripper!) and has been found in various brands of tampons containing rayon (however not in those made with 100% organic cotton).


Exposure to carbon disulphide has been associated with an increased risk of menstrual disorders, early menopause and hormonal imbalances which can all lead to delayed conception.

Toxic Chemicals:

The following toxic chemicals have also been found, although there is no explanation as to why they should be there, possibly from the manufacturing process or added fragrance.

Chemicals such as methylene chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, ethyl acetate, m,p-xylene, heptane, hexane and toluene have been found.


PFAs (Forever Chemicals):

PFAs have stick, stain and water-resistant properties, which are desirable characteristics for tampons, pads and also period underwear. However, they do not have desirable effects for us and have been linked to decreased fertility and hormone imbalances. They are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down easily and can linger in the human body for many years.


The compound fluorine has been found in tampons, pads and some period underwear, but not all. Therefore, it shows these products can be made without it, we just need to look closely to find them.



Phthalates are a group of chemicals which are used in the manufacture of plastic products.

These chemicals help soften plastics and allow them to be light, flexible and strong. However, they are known endocrine disruptors and there is an association between phthalates and an overall reduction in the number of total, mature, and fertilized eggs and high-quality embryos.

Due to phthalates oestrogenic activity it is also suspected to result in preterm birth, early puberty and other female fertility conditions such as endometriosis.

Phthalates have been found in tampons, sanitary pads and panty liners, in particular diethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate being the main contributors.


There is increasing evidence that BPA, and more recently BPF, can affect fertility as they are also a known endocrine disruptor. Studies have shown a negative impact on the HPO (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian) axis causing hormonal dysregulation during the different phases of the menstrual cycle.

There is also growing evidence that these bisphenols affect female reproductive disorders including PCOS and endometriosis.

In a 2020 study BPF was widely found in tampons (92%) and panty liners (69%). BPA was widely found in pads (72%), panty liners (69%) and tampons (92%).

The above are the most studied toxic elements found in your typical sanitary wear product, but how do we avoid them?

Thankfully there are more and more clean products coming on to the market. They make this very clear on the their packaging so they are easier to spot.

The main statements you need to look out for (depending on the product) is that they are organic cotton and chemical free.


But I have also done the homework for you to make it easier and the following are my recommended brands, separated by product type – and where to buy them:


































Menstrual cups are a great choice not just for you but for the environment too. They are reusable and save millions of tampons and pads ending up in landfill or our rivers and seas.


When choosing a Menstrual Cup ensure they are made from medical grade silicone, they are latex free, hypoallergenic and do not contain any dyes, perfumes, BPA, phthalates, plastic, bleaches or toxins – this should be stated clearly on the packaging and their websites.


Here are few options I recommend:








Period underwear is becoming increasingly popular too. Like menstrual cups they are reusable and extremely kind to the environment, with many women feeling much more comfortable not having to insert a tampon or cup.


But as with all the other products mentioned, you need to check the labelling to ensure they are made from organic cotton, fragrance free and chemical free. The chemicals you want to avoid are PFAs and PFCSs, these have been linked to infertility as well as a higher risk of developing cancer.


Some period underwear will contain silver, an antimicrobial, which has been added to some (but not all) due to concerns surrounding odour and hygiene. However, there is very limited data to support it’s use. In fact, it is recognised to reduce levels of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus, leaving women more at risk from pathogenic bacteria in the vaginal microbiome which can increase risk of bacterial infections, pregnancy complications and affect fertility.


There is no requirement to add this to the labelling so it is hard to know whether it's been added or not. At the time of writing, the following brands contained silver as an antimicrobial substance and are best avoided:



Modi Bodi





The only period underwear I can 100% recommend is WUKA.


They categorically state their products do not contain any added chemicals, such as silver or antibacterial treatments, stain-resistant or Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs or PFSAs). 


The majority of their underwear are made using organic cotton, but they have a large range so do check the ones you’re buying are the cotton variety.



As you can see choosing the most appropriate and safe period products isn’t easy. But I hope I have taken the guess work out of it for you.


Any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Berg, E. (2023, October 15). The Cause of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome| Dr. Berg.


Casale, J., & Rice, A. S. (2023). Phthalates Toxicity. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing.


Gao, C.-J., & Kannan, K. (2020). Phthalates, bisphenols, parabens, and triclocarban in feminine hygiene products from the United States and their implications for human exposure. Environment International, 136, 105465.


Gao, C.-J., Wang, F., Shen, H.-M., Kannan, K., & Guo, Y. (2019). Feminine Hygiene Products—A Neglected Source of Phthalate Exposure in Women. Environmental Science & Technology, 54(2), 930–937.


Joffe, M. (2003). Infertility and environmental pollutants. British Medical Bulletin, 68(1), 47–70.


Lindbohm, M.-L., & Sallmen, M. (2022, September 30). Reproductive effects caused by chemical and biological agents - OSHwiki | European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.


Mendez, F., Ordoñez-Betancourth, J., & Abrahams, N. (2021). Effects of Glyphosate Exposure on Reproductive Health: A Systematic Review of Human, Animal and In-Vitro Studies. Exposure and Health.


Milesi, M. M., Lorenz, V., Durando, M., Rossetti, M. F., & Varayoud, J. (2021). Glyphosate Herbicide: Reproductive Outcomes and Multigenerational Effects. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 12.


Pivonello, C., Muscogiuri, G., Nardone, A., Garifalos, F., Provvisiero, D. P., Verde, N., de Angelis, C., Conforti, A., Piscopo, M., Auriemma, R. S., Colao, A., & Pivonello, R. (2020). Bisphenol A: an emerging threat to female fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology : RB&E, 18(22).


The American Chemical Society (ACS). (2023, August 10). Indicator of PFAS found in some — but not all — period products. American Chemical Society.


Upson, K., Shearston, J. A., & Kioumourtzoglou, M.-A. (2022). Menstrual Products as a Source of Environmental Chemical Exposure: A Review from the Epidemiologic Perspective. Current Environmental Health Reports, 9(1).


Which? (2023, November 13). Some popular period pants contain unnecessarily high levels of silver, Which? warns - Which? Policy and insight. Which?


Women's Voices for the Earth. (2018). What’s in your tampon? Women’s Voices for the Earth.

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