20 Chemicals to Avoid in Feminine Care Products

Chemicals used to make car tires, acetone, and a compound used in petroleum refining? This trifecta—plus a laundry list of numerous other concerning chemicals—are what was found when an independent lab tested four feminine care products for their ingredients.

In August 2014 Women’s Voices for the Earth commissioned testing of four types of Always menstrual pads, manufactured by Procter & Gamble. The certified laboratory STAT Analysis Corporation analyzed the products for volatile organic compound.

This recently released data represent the first publicly available test results of this kind for these products. Both scented and unscented Always Ultra Thin pads were tested, as well as scented and unscented Always Infinity.

The results of the testing indicate that both scented and unscented Always pads emit toxic chemicals, including chemicals identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the State of California Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, and reproductive and developmental toxins.

None of these chemicals are disclosed on the product by the manufacturer.

Procter & Gamble does not disclose the identity of the materials used to manufacture its menstrual pads. Thus, it remains unclear which components of the pad may be the source of the volatile toxic emissions. The testing results demonstrate the need for more testing of these products to better characterize the chemical exposures and to better understand the potential health impacts of those exposures.

Products Tested

Always Ultra Thin unscented

Always Ultra Thin Clean Scent

Always Infinity unscented

Always Radiant Infinity Light Clean Scent


Analysis of the samples for volatile organic compounds was conducted by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with EPA Method TO-15 using headspace containers.


The Always menstrual pads were found to contain several chemicals of concern, including the following:

  • Styrene: carcinogen
  • Chloromethane: reproductive toxicant
  • Chloroethane: carcinogen
  • Chloroform: carcinogen, reproductive toxicant, neurotoxin
  • Acetone: irritant.

Volatile Organic Compounds Detected in the Headspace of Menstrual Pads

Chemicals Detected Clean Scent Always Ultra Thin Unscented Always Ultra Thin Clean Scent Always Radiant Unscented Always Infinity
Chemical Name ppbv ppbv ppbv ppbv
1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene 0.64 0.54 ND 1.20
1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene ND ND ND 0.54
2-Butanone 7.50 7.70 ND 4.20
4-Ethyltoluene ND ND ND 0.46
Acetone 480.00 340.00 92.00 93.00
Chloroethane ND ND 4.40 6.10
Chloroform 1.20 1.50 ND ND
Chloromethane ND ND ND 16.00
Cyclohexane 0.50 0.78 ND 1.10
Ethyl acetate 8.00 5.50 ND 2.30
Ethylbenzene ND 0.52 ND 0.84
Heptane 1.10 1.50 ND 0.86
Isopropyl Alcohol 170.00 39.00 ND 17.00
m,p-Xylene 1.40 2.00 ND 2.80
o-Xylene 0.54 0.68 ND 1.50
Styrene 0.44 ND ND 1.10
Toluene 3.20 6.20 ND 7.00
trans-1,2-Dichloroethene ND 0.50 26.00 ND
Vinyl acetate 14.00 ND ND 6.60
Xylenes, Total 2.00 2.70 ND 4.30

ND = not detected

Always Testing Social Image_FINAL

Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on away.com.

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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