Study Warns of Potentially Cancer-Causing PFAS Chemicals in Tampon Brands Commonly Used by Women Throughout U.S.

PFAS Chemicals were even found in tampons labeled as "organic"

Amid growing health concerns about the long-term side effects from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, infertility, hormone disruptions and other injuries, new research indicates that elevated levels of the toxic “forever chemicals” are commonly found many popular tampon brands.

The consumer advocacy group Mamavation released a new report on October 26, in which 23 popular and widely available brands of tampons were tested for levels of PFAS at an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified laboratory. The findings revealed 22% of the tampons tested included elevated levels of fluorine, which are a strong indicator of the presence of PFAS.

Researchers tested flourine levels in a total of 23 tampon products made from synthetic materials, different types of wrappers and even those advertised as “organic”.

The tests were performed by an EPA-certified lab,  where researchers determined five (22%) of the tampons tested had elevated levels of PFAS markers, ranging from 19 parts per million (ppm) to 28 parts per million (ppm). The current drinking water standards set forth by the FDA for the maximum contaminant levels of the two most common PFAS chemicals are 0.004 parts per trillion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and 0.02 parts per trillion for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), both of which have been linked to increased cancer risks.

Two of the tampon products that tested positive for elevated levels of PFAS markers were advertised as “organic” tampons, yet contained man-made synthetic PFAS chemicals.

Some of the brands that tested positive for PFAS in tampon products included:

  • Maxim Hygiene Organic Cotton Cardboard Applicator Tampons
  • OrganYc Complete Protection Tampons (made with organic cotton)
  • Playtex SPORT Regular & Super Tampons
  • Tampax Cardboard Applicator Unscented Tampons
  • Up & Up (Target Brand) Regular Tampons

PFAS Health Concerns and Lawsuits

PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. The products have been used for decades in a number of products including cosmetic, cooking, waterproof clothing and various other stain and anti-stick products.

In recent years, a growing body of medical research has found exposure to PFAS chemicals through ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption increases the risk of a myriad of adverse health effects, The chemicals have caused widespread water contamination nationwide and are commonly found in the urine of most Americans.

Manufacturers of the chemicals now face hundreds of firefighting foam lawsuits brought by individuals diagnosed with cancer after direct contact with the chemicals during their careers as a firefighter. In addition, a growing number of PFAS water contamination lawsuits are being pursued by individuals diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or cancer, after regularly drinking water known to contain the chemicals.

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Firefighting Foam Lawsuits

Exposure to firefighting foam chemicals may result in an increased risk of cancer for firefighters, military and airport personnel.

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Over the past decade, developing research has linked PFAS exposure to a numerous adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer. Communities nationwide are now finding alarming levels of the chemicals in their water supplies, especially near manufacturing plants, military bases and firefighter training facilities.

In July, a study was published in the medical journal Exposure and Health, warning of PFAS breast cancer risks and at least 12 other medical conditions; including diabetes, endometriosis, infertility, low birth weight, childhood and adult obesity, and other ailments.

A study published earlier this year in August in the medical journal JHEP Reports is the first to show a clear association between PFAS and liver cancer using human samples, specifically, nonviral hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the most common type of liver cancer in humans.

October 2022 PFAS Lawsuit Update

Given common questions of fact and law raised in lawsuits being filed against 3M Company, Dupont and other manufacturers of PFAS chemicals and fire safety equipment, consolidated pretrial proceedings have been established in the federal court system, where claims brought nationwide are all centralized before one judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, for coordinated discovery and a series of early trial dates to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

There are currently about 3,000 product liability lawsuits over toxic PFAS effects pending nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the companies failed to warn about the long-term health risks from exposure to the chemicals.

Earlier this year, the Court selected a PFAS water contamination lawsuits for the first bellwether trial, which will go before a jury in 2023. While the outcome of the first trials will not be binding on firefighters or other plaintiffs, they will be closely watched and may influence future settlement negotiations over the PFAS cancer risks.


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