Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Personal Hygiene Products: The Implications for Human Exposure and Emission to the Environment

By Yan Zhou, Xia Lin, Yudong Xing, Xin Zhang, Hian Kee Lee, and Zhenzhen Huang
Environ Sci Technol
June 1, 2023
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c08912

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been related to reproductive toxicity in humans, but their occurrence in some specific personal hygiene products, i.e., sanitary pads, panty liners, tampons, paper diapers, menstrual cups, and bactericidal liquids, has not been extensively studied. This work investigated 31 representative PFAS in six categories of such personal hygiene products ( = 91). Perfluorinated carboxylic acids were the primary PFAS found in the samples, accounting for over 85% of the total concentrations of PFAS. Paper diapers contained the highest sum of PFAS concentrations (64.6 ng/g) followed by sanitary pads (52.3 ng/g) and menstrual cups (21.1 ng/g). The estimated exposure doses of perfluorooctanoic acid through dermal absorption from the use of menstrual cups and paper diapers for infants (adults) were 0.77 and 2.1 (1.2) ng/kg-bw/day, which contributed more than normal dust ingestion. The estimated emission of paper diapers and sanitary pads into the environment was 2.58 and 322 kg/year with an assumed leaching rate of 100%. The potential exposure of PFAS through the use of personal hygiene products observed in this work suggests a previously unreported exposure pathway of these chemicals to humans.

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