Test: Menstrual cups

14. aug 2018

A test of menstrual cups did not show significant findings of unwanted chemicals. However, most of the products do emit substantial amounts of volatile substances.

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Test: Menstrual cups
Photo: ICRT

Menstrual cups are in long-term contact with the body

In the recent years, menstrual cups have become a more common and widely distributed alternative to sanitary napkins and tampons.

Therefore, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals in cooperation with the Austrian Consumer organization Verein für Konsumentinformation have tested 7 menstrual cups.

One of the main aims of the test was to find out whether menstrual cups contain problematic chemicals such as endocrine disrupting phthalates, carcinogenic nitrosamines or heavy metals and chlorinated paraffins.

Menstrual cups are in close and prolonged contact with the mucus membrane. This long-term contact makes it even more important that the cups do not contain unwanted chemicals.

See the chemical test of menstrual cups (in Danish)

Volatile substances emitted from menstrual cups made of silicone

Overall, the results show that the menstrual cups do not contain significant amounts of the problematic substances tested for in the test. Only a few products contained traces of a phthalate as well as PAHs.

However, the test shows that menstrual cups can contain volatile organic compounds.

The specific volatile substances are unknown and the potential effects of these substances are therefore unknown as well. However, release of volatile organic compounds from silicone-products like menstrual cups that are in close contact with mucus membrane is unwanted.

In most cases, the release of volatile compounds from the cups were higher than the recommended limit value for pacifiers as well as for food contact materials made of silicone. For now, there are no similar recommendations regarding volatile compounds for menstrual cups.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals advises consumers to carefully follow the guidelines of the manufacturers and boil the products before they start to use them and every time before using the product again. During heating a large part of the volatile compounds will be released.

1 menstrual cup gets the best chemical rating

The menstrual cup Lunette Clear is the only cup in the test that receives the best chemical rating.

It contained none of the problematic substances analyzed in the test.

Lunette Clear was also the menstrual cup that had the lowest level of volatile compounds amongst all of the tested products made of silicone.

For further questions contact project manager Stine Müller on sm@fbr.dk

Read about all tests performed by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

What did we find?

None of the 7 tested menstrual cups contained problematic amounts of unwanted chemicals.

Nevertheless, there was only one menstrual cup in the test, Lunette Clear, which received got the best chemical rating.

Lunette Clear did not contain any of the substances tested for and it did not release high amounts of volatile organic substances.

The remaining 6 products all received an average chemical assessment.

The 5 products made of silicone all released volatile organic compounds in levels above what is recommended for silicone pacifiers as well as for silicone molds intended for food contact.

There are no guidelines for the release of volatile substances from menstrual cups, even though they are products that you are in very close and prolonged contact with.

The 6th product made of TPE contained the highest amount of Non-intentionally added substances (NIAS).

Phthalates

Only 1 menstrual cup contained small traces of the phthalate, DEP.

DEP is suspected of being endocrine disrupter.

PAHs

3 menstrual cups contained small traces of PAHs.

In 2 cases it included naphthalene, which is classified as a potentially carcinogenic in the EU.

Latex Proteins

The menstrual cups in the test are not made of latex.

However, 2 products contained traces of latex proteins.

The content was very low. But if you have latex allergy, you may want to consider choosing some of the products that were completely free of latex.

Volatile compounds

Volatile organic compounds may be released from the silicone if not sufficiently hardened.

Requirements regarding volatile organic compounds in for example pacifiers and silicone material intended for food contact exist.

5 out of 6 products made of silicone release more than these recommendations when tested in accordance with these standards.

There are no similar requirements for menstrual cups, although they are also products that women are in very close and long-term contact with.

NIAS (Non-intentionally added substances)

In most of the menstrual cups we did not find high levels of non-intentionally added substances, so called NIAS.

However, the only non-silicone product had the highest level of unintentional contamination in the test.

Advice to consumers

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ advice to consumer is to carefully follow the instructions of the manufacturer and sterilize (boil) the product before using it.

By heating you decrease the amount of volatile compounds present in the cup.

Recent Swedish and French studies

In spring 2018, both the Swedish Chemical Agency and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) also made chemical test of various hygiene products including menstrual cups.

The Swedish Chemicals Agency’s survey of hygiene products (external link)

The French ANSES survey of hygiene products (external link)