Chromatography Checks for VOCs in Female Hygiene Products
Sep 28 2020
Feminine hygiene products are widely used across the world with sales of over $3 billion annually in the United States alone. But there are few regulations that require the disclosure of their composition in the US – although the state of New York will require the disclosure of the products ingredients in 2020. The first such requirement in the US.
Feminine hygiene products are typically used in sensitive and permeable places, on tissues that are permeable and sensitive. In August 2014, a group raised the possibility of chemical exposure from volatile organic compounds (VOC) in hygiene products through their use. Researchers from the University of Michigan analysed the VOC concentrations in feminine hygiene products available in the US. They published their results in the journal Environment International - and gas chromatography was key to the research.
Exposure not recommended
Feminine hygiene products come in many different forms including tampons, menstrual pads, sprays, washes, powders, and wipes. A woman may use up to 10,000 tampons or pads during her lifetime. They are used on sensitive and highly permeable vaginal and vulvar tissue that can be sensitive to chemicals and irritants. The vaginal tissues contain many arteries, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. This means that any chemicals can be easily transferred to bloodstream.
Previous research has found over 200 VOCs including benzene and styrene in hygiene products sold in South Korea. And phthalates and VOCs have been detected in sanitary pads from Korea, Finland, France, and Greece. VOCs are used for many purposes in feminine hygiene products including as fragrances, adsorbents, binders, and moisture barriers. Exposure to high concentrations of VOCs or over a long-term has been associated with irritation to the eyes and skin; exposure has also been linked to respiratory, liver and kidney damage.
Chromatography and feminine hygiene
For the study published as Volatile organic compounds in feminine hygiene products sold in the US market: A survey of products and health risks, the researchers chose products that were readily available in the US marketplace. They sampled the VOCs from the products using a purge and trap method. The samples were then analysed using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry. The extraction and analysis of samples using GC-MS is discussed in the article, Analysis of Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Edible Oil to 0.5 ppb.
The researchers report that all feminine hygiene products tested contained multiple VOCs but at low concentrations. But some products had higher VOCs including benzene, n-heptane and 1,4-dioxane. The team also report that product labels were not informative with respect to VOC composition and concentration. The team suggest that all ingredients be disclosed and that VOCs that do not serve a functional or aesthetic purpose should be removed.
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