International Women’s Day 2024: a new standard helps ensure the safety and quality of menstrual products

On International Women’s Day, CEN and CENELEC are happy to join the celebrations and highlight their efforts to achieve full gender equality and support women everywhere.

Indeed, as organizations, we are committed to ensuring a fully inclusive standardization environment: for instance, among other activities, we are signatories of UNECE’s Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards and have launched our own CEN and CENELEC Gender Action Plan.

Furthermore, Standards play an important role in supporting  SDG 5 – Gender Equality: they can foster the dissemination of best practices, help implement and measure change, and ensure women have access to safe and healthy products.


This is the case of a new Workshop Agreement (CWA) published by CEN on 22 December 2023, which represent a significant milestone: CWA 18062:2023 ‘Determination of trace chemicals extracted from absorbent hygiene products (AHPs) using simulated urine/menstrual fluid’.

In this article, Marta Roche, Sustainability & Technical Affairs Manager at EDANA, the leading global association for nonwovens, looks at how this workshop agreement came to fruition and why it is important.


Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs), including baby diapers, adult incontinence and menstrual products, play a crucial role in our society. They have been used safely all around the world for decades, and they make an important contribution to the well-being, hygiene, quality of life, and self-confidence of millions of people. For example, access to menstrual products significantly empowers women and girls, facilitating their participation in education, work, and social activities. This underscores the vital role that AHPs play in supporting women's health and empowerment globally.


For the last six years, there has been a recurring debate in Europe on the level of trace chemicals found in AHPs. This debate was triggered by unfounded articles in consumer magazines and posts from social media influencers raising questions and concerns about the safety of AHPs and led to a so-called restriction proposal for the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) to restrict the use of chemicals in AHPs. The process came to a close in 2022, and while it found that the risks could not be demonstrated, it did conclude that there is a strong need for a harmonized analytical test method that delivers robust and accurate results.


In response to this debate, EDANA and its member companies embarked on a collaborative effort to address these safety concerns, which led to the launch of the EDANA Stewardship Programme on AHPs in 2020. Signatories to the programme are required to check all their products for traces of chemical components that could potentially be present in AHPs, and to confirm that they do not exceed the limit values.

At the heart of EDANA’s AHP Stewardship Programme lies CODEX, which outlines an industry-wide list of substances (including PAHs, PCBs, dioxins, furans, phthalates, and formaldehyde), guidance values (levels which the listed substances should not exceed), and Standardized Test Methods (harmonized laboratory procedures to test for the presence of these substances and assess their respective levels). Initially focusing on baby diapers, the method was expanded in 2022 to include menstrual products, reflecting the industry’s commitment to comprehensively addressing safety concerns across various AHP categories.

While open to non-members since its inception, the collaboration with CEN and the establishment of the CWA was an important step in extending the programme’s reach to not only other AHP manufacturers but also other relevant stakeholders, such as regulatory bodies, retailers, and consumer organizations.


The significance of this CWA lies in its potential to streamline testing processes, ensuring consistency and accuracy in assessing the presence of trace chemicals. These substances typically arise from environmental contamination and are not added intentionally during the manufacturing process. If testing is not done accurately, the testing process could also contaminate the samples and produce inaccurate results. Providing a standardized method tailored specifically for AHPs mitigates the risk of unreliable results that could otherwise fuel confusion and impede informed decision-making.


In addition to benefiting the end-user (consumers), this agreement holds relevance for a diverse range of stakeholders, including AHP manufacturers, regulatory bodies, retailers, and consumer organizations. Its adoption promises to enhance transparency and confidence in the safety of AHPs, ultimately benefiting both industry and society.


EDANA wishes to thank the convenor and members of CEN/WS/118 and its Secretariat, held by German Standardization body DIN, for their invaluable contributions to the development of this standard. Their expertise and dedication have been instrumental in advancing the collective effort toward ensuring the safety and quality of absorbent hygiene products.


Jennifer OGBONNA


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