Is Your Period Underwear Toxic?

Four women of different skin color shades standing together. They are facing the left, and their arms are wrapped around the waist on the woman in front of them. They all have on black bras and black underwear. Their faces aren't visible as the tops of their heads are cut off in the image. Antoni Shkraba/Pexels

In 2023, Thinx underwear settled a lawsuit over allegations that there are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or “forever chemicals” in its leakproof or period underwear. Exposure to some PFAS has been linked to adverse health effects.

This once again raises the question of whether the menstrual products we use are harmful and toxic. Do you know what’s in your menstrual products?

“For many, the search for a suitable menstrual product goes on. Pads can feel bulky and show through tight clothing. Tampons are a bit less cumbersome, though like pads they are single-use products that build up waste and can also include harmful chemicals such as phthalates and dioxins. Menstrual cups are considered an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative, though inserting these silicone or rubber devices can be messy and they can be ill-fitting.

When over 1.8 billion people around the world menstruate each month, why is it so hard for them to find quality period products? Chris Bobel, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says it has to do with menstrual stigma. As long as a device obscures the fact that a woman has her period, she may feel grateful for the coverage, not skeptical or curious about how it works.”