Menstrual Products as a Source of Environmental Chemical Exposure: A Review from the Epidemiologic Perspective

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2022 Mar;9(1):38-52. doi: 10.1007/s40572-022-00331-1. Epub 2022 Mar 17.


Purpose of review: Menstrual bleeding is a regular, common occurrence in a substantial portion of the population. Menstruators may use more than 10,000 menstrual products over the lifetime. Given the potential for environmental chemicals in menstrual products to be absorbed by the vulvar and vaginal epithelium into systemic circulation, we reviewed the available data on menstrual products as a source of environmental chemical exposure.

Recent findings: Nearly two dozen studies have been conducted measuring environmental contaminants in menstrual products; all have detected environmental chemicals but had discrepant conclusions on exposure risks. Only three human studies have investigated menstrual product use and environmental chemical concentrations and all observed associations. Detection of environmental chemicals in menstrual products, in combination with challenges of exposure assessment, scarcity of human studies, and the exceedingly common occurrence of menstrual bleeding, motivates the need for further research. We provide recommendations to move this field forward.

Keywords: Environmental chemicals; Menses; Menstrual pad; Menstrual products; Tampon.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Hygiene Products*