Everything You Need to Know About PFAS and Period Underwear
Have you been hearing the buzz about PFAS? As someone interested in period underwear, you might be wondering, “What even are these chemicals and what do they have to do with period underwear?” We’re here to clear up the confusion so you can make an informed choice about how to care for your body.
First things first. Is Saalt period underwear safe? Yes! As a certified B Corp, we’re deeply committed to your health and wellbeing, and to the health of the planet.
We do not use any PFAS in our fabrics or finishes and test all materials for a wide range of known hazardous substances, including PFAS and other known harmful chemicals.
We also do our best to be transparent about our materials and our production process. Because we are a team of people with periods, (who are all in love with our Saalt Wear) we would never add something to our garments that we wouldn’t want in our own underwear! We are passionate about doing the right thing for our customers and for our planet.
In fact, as part of our pre-launch testing protocol for Saalt Wear, we discovered in early 2020 that one of our fabrics included one chemical categorized as PFAS. We immediately contacted the supplier and went to work redeveloping the material with a new finish that did not include the PFAS chemical or any other harmful substances. We also contacted all of our suppliers to double check that no other fabrics, finishes, elastics or other components had any PFAS included. Once the fabric in question was redeveloped, we even tested the new fabric with a third-party lab to triple-check that no PFAS was used in the new material. All of the redevelopment and testing added months to our development calendar and delayed the launch of our first line of Saalt Wear by almost five months.
Despite resulting in months of lost revenue, we were committed to delivering safe period underwear to our customers and decided it was better to delay our product launch and take the financial hit than to bring to market a product that we couldn't stand behind. The final version of our Saalt Wear was first introduced on November 30, 2020, and we're proud to say that our products have never been treated with PFAS.
So what are these PFAS I keep hearing about?
Let’s break it down. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” meaning they take a really long time to break down. Because these chemicals do not biodegrade, they can build up in the human body and interfere with our systems. The most commonly studied PFAS chemicals “can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects,” according to the EPA.
This can sound a bit scary, especially considering that these chemicals are found in a wide range of common household products, including non-stick cookware, rain jackets or umbrellas, shampoo, dental floss, some food packaging, and even tap water. As new studies reveal more and more evidence of adverse health consequences, the conversation about PFAS continues to change. For further information about the history and science of PFAS, check out these additional informational resources from the CDC, EPA, and NIH.
Okay, so what do PFAS have to do with period underwear?
PFAS were developed and became commonly used in many consumer products because they are extremely proficient at repelling liquids like water and oil. Some period underwear companies have used PFAS in their underwear as a stain- and water-resistant coating to protect the fabric despite advertising that their period underwear is “organic and nontoxic.” Society is now learning, however, that repeated exposure to high levels of PFAS can be dangerous.
I’m ready to nerd out. Can you show me the science?
We thought you’d never ask! Because PFAS do not break down (they won’t degrade in nature), they are becoming more and more prevalent in the world. This means that all types of products can be exposed to PFAS inadvertently in shipping or manufacturing (kind of like that warning you see on granola bars that says, “manufactured in a facility that also handles peanuts”).
We do not use PFAS in any of our fabrics or finishes, and to underscore this, Saalt has tested our leak proof underwear through third-party facilities and results have varied between 0 and 10 ppm (parts per million). This is well below the level of 100 ppm which is generally considered the threshold for intentional PFAS use. Extremely low levels of PFAS, like 10 ppm are indicative of accidental exposure through contact with equipment or other products containing PFAS. A test result under 10 ppm is considered “undetectable” by most testing facilities. When PFAS are deliberately added to fabrics, they will appear in much larger quantities.
We understand that you likely do not want to just take our word for it - so here are our most recent testing results! Different styles, collections, sizes, and colors of Saalt Wear were randomly pulled from our distribution center. These Saalt Wear garments were then tested for blanket fluorine presence (the class of chemicals that includes all PFAS) and we are happy to say that the "ND" that you are seeing in all of those boxes indicates NOT DETECTED!
I’m ready to change the world, one period at a time.
Your body— and the planet—thank you for being thoughtful in your decisions about period care! As a B Corp, we’re committed to providing safe period underwear that is also the most effective, responsibly produced, and non toxic period underwear on the market for our customers. We source our materials from factories that have a reputation for prioritizing safe, green textiles and who are constantly improving manufacturing to be better for the environment. In fact, the facility where Saalt period underwear is made was the first apparel manufacturing facility in the world to be rated Platinum by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). And some of our fabrics are OEKO-TEX or bluesign approved, which are internationally recognized standards for making textiles cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
Here at Saalt, we want to equip you with trustworthy, accurate information so you can make informed choices about which period underwear is right for you. At the very heart of what we do is creating products that allow our customers to feel comfortable and confident in what they are putting on and in their bodies. Our Saalt Coaches are always here to answer any questions you have! Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime to chat with them.
(Originally published September 2021, Updated January 2023 and March 2023)