Swedish stakeholders request global ISO standards for menstrual products


November 13, 2020

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About 300 million people around the world menstruate every day. Still, there are no clear global regulations that guarantee the safety and quality of menstrual products such as tampons, pads, and cups. The Swedish Institute for Standards, SIS, has joined together with several Swedish stakeholders and this week submitted a proposal for a new standardization area to the consumer advocacy organization within ISO, called Copolco.

Today there are around 22 000 global standards that regulate everything from solid fuel to social responsibility, but there is no standard for menstrual products despite that half of the world’s population menstruate and those substandard products can have devastating consequences for the user.

During the spring a group of experts, researchers, and companies have gathered at SIS to prepare an application on why and how international standardization for menstrual products can contribute to improving the safety and health of people using menstrual products.

An international standard would be useful in addressing issues relating to menstrual products, such as health and material safety, as well as environmental aspects. It would also reduce the information asymmetry between producers and consumers regarding product safety, as requirements of testing and transparency will become more comparable. This should increase consumers’ ability to make an informed choice, with the fundamental principle that all consumers should have this right. Additionally, standardizing menstrual products can have a destigmatizing effect, which can contribute to greater gender equality. These matters should be addressed on an international level, since, of course, they apply to all consumers of these products, globally.

– We need to secure that manufacturers put the safety and health of consumers at the top, thus we are now asking Copolco to take a stand for consumers and continue to push menstrual health product standards further at the ISO-level (International Standardization Organization), says Gerda Larsson, cofounder at The Case for Her.

– ISO Copolco is mandated to push standardization issues where consumers’ safety and interests might be overseen. Standards are of great importance where legislation and market interests haven’t been able to regulate the products responsibly. The next step is that a working group within Copolo will look at the proposal. If they decide to prioritize this as a new area for standardization we will work with them to get an actual standard proposal ready for circulation to ISO’s 165 member countries, says Anna Sjögren project manager at SIS.

The lack of regulation also affects the international trade of menstrual products. Often affecting small to midsize manufacturers or innovators as it is hard to know what requirements need to be met, and how to meet them. A global standard for these products would help bridge the gap and spire innovation without jeopardizing consumer safety.

– In addition, to support consumers’ ability to make informed choices, standards will benefit product development, innovation, and increase competition and trade between countries, says Louise Klintner, Ph.D. student at Lund University School of Economics and Management, who has spent years researching menstrual products and regulations.

About ISO Copolco

Read more about the initiative here.

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