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Lawmakers work to ban toxic hygiene products with almost no federal regulation: 'It's such an intimate use of a product'

"[It] should also be front and center."

"[It] should also be front and center."

Photo Credit: iStock

Lawmakers in California, Colorado, and Vermont are working to ban the sale of period products containing PFAS after harmful "forever chemicals" were detected in multiple sanitary items last year, according to The Guardian. 

A landmark study by the University of Notre Dame found PFAS in tampon applicators, period underwear, disposable and reusable pads, and plastic wrappers, sounding the alarm for the safety of people who menstruate.

But federal lawmakers have been slow to respond, with bills to regulate PFAS in consumer products all stalling in Congress. Chemical industry lobbyists have been blamed for the lack of progress.

This has left a patchwork of states to ensure consumer safety. Around 12 states have passed regulations about PFAS in consumer products, including food packaging, children's toys, and cosmetics.

But only New York and Georgia had proposed legislation that specifically targeted PFAS in period products, before California, Colorado, and Vermont vowed to follow suit. 

PFAS are a group of chemicals that repel oil and water and are incredibly long-lasting, with some taking 1,000 years to break down. This has made them popular for use in waterproof and non-stick products, such as Teflon. 

But a growing body of research has linked PFAS to a host of health risks, including multiple cancers, reduced immunity, low birth weights, and liver damage. 

Tragically, exposure to PFAS is almost unavoidable. These "forever chemicals" have been found in pandas, tigers, and seals across the globe as well as in the bloodstreams of 97% of Americans. 

Small PFAS particles leak into our environment through waste water, rub off skis and snowboards into the snow, transfer from food packaging onto our food, and leach from landfills into the soil.

Researchers have expressed concern that they could even be absorbed into our bodies through our skin, with contaminated period products making their users especially vulnerable.

A ban on PFAS in consumer products would help to curb that threat to our health. Scientists also remain hopeful that PFAS already in our environment could be broken down and destroyed.

"There's no safeguards on this," Graham Peaslee, who co-authored the study on PFAS in period products, told The Washington Post. "Nobody would have known because nobody checks this sort of stuff."

"We've looked at removing PFAS from astroturf, from cleaning products," California assemblymember Diane Papan told The Guardian. "Tampons should also be front and center. It's such an intimate use of a product."

"Since PFAS are persistent chemicals," added Alyssa Wicks, a graduate student who worked with Peaslee, "they will travel through soil into irrigation water and drinking water sources and end up being a source of contamination for all humans — not just those who use or wear the products we studied."

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