As I mentioned in my introduction to this Leaf Score series on eco-friendly, non-toxic menstrual management products, tampons, pads, and other period management products are not subject to particularly stringent regulation in the U.S. This means that the onus is on individual companies to seek out certifications for safety and sustainability. Thankfully, many companies do just that, which is just as well considering where these products are meant to be used. I recommend the DivaCup Menstrual Cup, which has an impressive 5/5 Leaf Score. The product received the ISO 13485:2003 Certification and the company is a Certified B Corporation.
Green certifications for cotton pads, tampons, and reusable menstrual management products
When looking for disposable or reusable period products that are made with cotton, look for the following certifications:
USDA-certified organic – This means the cotton used in the product has been grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. If it just says ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, this is not certified organic and is more likely to contain these toxins.
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certified – As many menstrual products are made with 100 percent cotton, they are classified as organic textiles. GOTS is the leading organization for organic textiles and is the label to look out for as a marker of quality. GOTS also protects workers’ rights and ensure that employment is voluntary, working conditions are safe, fair wages are paid, and no child labor is ever used.
Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) – Established in 1974, this is a leading non-profit organic certifier in the U.S. They helped shape the standards for the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, launch sustainability programs, and help promote innovation in organic standards and practices.
Nordic Ecolabel – promotes a more sustainable consumerism with the goal of creating a sustainable society.
Other certifications to look for
The following certifications are a little more obscure, but worth looking for when buying period management products, whether reusable or disposable:
ICEA (The Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) certification – the ICEA inspects and certifies firms respectful of the environment, workers’ dignity and collective rights. This organization is one of the most prominent inspection and certification bodies in the field of sustainable development.
The SOIL ASSOCIATION – the UK’s leading organic certification organization, the Soil Association promotes sustainable food and farming through the use of local, seasonal and organic systems.
SA 8000 (Social Accountability Certification) – SA8000 is a social accountability standard for decent working conditions, based on global workplace norms of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Certified B Corporation – B Corps are companies certified as using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. It is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to corn. Certification helps demonstrate an adherence to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, including how a company’s practices and products impact employees, community, the environment, and customers.
Certifications for reusable menstrual management products
Some reusable products sold in the U.S. state that they are ISO-certified, which is misleading at worst and incorrect at best. There is no ISO certification as such. Rather, the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) creates standards which are then used by other organizations to confer certification. ISO management systems are recognized and practiced in over 160 countries around the world.
Relevant ISO standards for reusable menstrual management products include:
ISO-10993, Biological Evaluation of Medical Devices Part-1: Evaluation and Testing (for repeat use devices–30 days or more– in contact with skin/mucosal membrane surface)
ISO 13485:2003 Certification, the Quality Standard Management System for medical devices – required by Health Canada for all medical device manufacturers worldwide.
ISO-10993 certification is not necessary for a product to get FDA approval. Companies producing menstrual cups, for example, often use medical-grade silicone that has already been certified. So, while ‘ISO-certified’ can sound good, it doesn’t always mean much, although it is nice to have.
Reusable products may also be made by B Corporations (such as Lunapads), and be made with organic cotton certified by OTCO, GOTS, Soil Association, or another certifying body. You may also see Fair Trade, Nest, or other social accountability standards on reusable products made with cotton, and these are a great indication that the company selling these goods is making an effort to ensure fair working conditions and support for workers, their families, and their communities.