Why use nonwovens in absorbent hygiene products?

Absorbent hygiene products (AHPs) have made an important contribution to the quality of life and skin health of millions of people. Users of absorbent hygiene products benefit from the softness, smoothness, leakage prevention, strength and protection provided by nonwovens.

Baby diapers

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Feminine care

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What are the advantages of using nonwovens in absorbent hygiene products?

Nonwovens are used in baby diapers, feminine hygiene, adult incontinence and personal care products. They are used in multiple elements of the products. Such as top sheet or cover stock, leg cuff, acquisition/distribution layer, core wrap, back sheet, stretch ears, landing zone, dusting layer and fastening systems.

Benefits of using nonwovens: they are the key to effective and efficient absorbent hygiene products

  • Excellent absorption
  • Softness
  • Smoothness
  • Stretchability
  • Comfort and fit
  • Strength
  • Lotions can be added for specific uses
  • Good uniformity


  • Double fluid barrier/leg cuffs help prevent leakages
  • Good strike through, wet back and run off
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Stability and tear resistance
  • Opacity and stain hiding power
  • Breathability

Main technologies used are; Airlaid, Carded nonwovens, Spunmelt. Other components of absorbent hygiene products are; fluff pulp, superabsorbent polymers, impervious backing films, adhesives and elastics.

Safety of absorbent hygiene products

 The safety of baby diapers and feminine hygiene products is something that consumers can count on

Sometimes reports mention chemical traces in absorbent hygiene products for women and babies. It is important to understand that chemical traces may come from different sources in our daily environment,  that everything in life, including products that we use every day and the food we eat, contains chemicals, both natural and synthetic in origin. Occasionally when trace chemicals are identified it does not mean that they present a health risk in any way to consumers. For many years, billions of absorbent hygiene products have been safely used by people all over the world. EDANA’s member companies – the product manufacturers and their suppliers - keep safety at the very heart of what they do.

EDANA’s member companies – the product manufacturers and their suppliers - keep safety at the very heart of what they do.


Misconceptions about the composition of sanitary products

Some misconceptions revolve around how absorbent hygiene products are manufactured and what their components are. The reality is that these products are constructed from raw materials such as cellulose pulp, the same material paper is made of, and polyester that you will find in your clothes and your sportswear.

The final products and their components are made of natural or man-made materials such as cellulose pulp, viscose, cotton, super absorbent materials, polymers such as polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene and various adhesives.   

Absorbent hygiene products are produced in several steps in compliance with local and international safety standards and regulations.

Raw materials are selected according to strict quality criteria and during manufacture, rigorous quality control systems and good manufacturing practices are in place to ensure the highest hygienic standards are met.

Additional information about absorbent hygiene products, including how they are made can be found the following documents baby diapers composition and menstrual pads and liners composition.

Manufacturers are consistently examining their products in market and actively respond to consumer comments or questions. They also provide information about safety assessments to regulatory bodies. To learn more about regulatory requirements or voluntary guidelines that the industry has adopted for absorbent hygiene products, consult the Product stewardship page , the Regulatory affairs page and the document 'Supply Chain Information for Personal Care Products’.


Posters at Toxicology forum 2019

Posters presented  at the Toxicology Forum meeting “Determining Relevant Low-Level Chemical Exposures for Safety Assessments of Consumer Products” May 20–22, 2019 Brussels, Belgium

Exposure Based Risk Assessment (EBRA) Principles Applied to Feminine Hygiene Products
Principles for the Risk Assessment of Trace Substances in Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHP)

Trace levels in products

Chemicals which are found in very low amounts (some barely detectable, measured in parts per billion or even parts per trillion) are referred to as “residues” and/or “traces”.

How traces are identified depends upon what analysis is used and how sensitive it is. Today it is possible to detect smaller and smaller amounts of substances by using advanced analysis and detection techniques – even at amounts that are well below the levels that are established as safe for human use/consumption.

Some tests use harsh methods to extract the various elements from a product, which while effective for measurement, does not represent the real conditions under which people use absorbent hygiene products. These stringent tests often involve the shredding of products and use chemical solvents which we do not have on our skin. A better alternative is to extract elements using a solution of salt in water, which better reflects real life conditions, and the relevant exposure during use by consumers.

Dioxins are a group of chemical compounds which are present in the environment, as they are created both by natural (e.g. forest fires) and industrial processes (e.g. combustion engines, or treatment with chlorine). This means it is not unusual to find very small traces of dioxins in food, clothes and consumer products.

Manufacturers of absorbent hygiene products neither add dioxins to their products nor use dioxins during the manufacturing process. Reports that the purification process for the fibres in products such as tampons and baby diapers create dioxins harmful for consumers are untrue.

Purification is a cleansing method for fibres, and also helps improve the absorbency of the products they are used in. Purification and bleaching methods used today in the absorbent hygiene industry do not create dioxins, because these methods are elemental or totally chlorine-free.

Traces may be found in absorbent hygiene products due to the ever-present nature of dioxins, as environmental pollutants, but the traces are at such a low level that it is lower than exposure from other sources such as food. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tested tampons for dioxin traces and advised that there is no concern to human health – to read the report click here:   http://www.fda.gov/downloads/scienceresearch/specialtopics/womenshealthresearch/ucm135376.pdf.

Halogenated organic compounds are a group of chemical compounds that contain at least one halogen (fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine) combined with carbon. Compounds differ in how they react and behave depending on the chemical structure and which halogen it is.

Some media have identified traces of halogenated organic compounds in absorbent hygiene products; however, consumers can be sure that halogenated organic compounds are not intentionally added during the manufacture of absorbent hygiene products.

Halogens may be detected by tests used to detect either extractable organic halogens (EOX) or absorbable organic halogens (AOX) – subsets of the broader category of halogens. One test for AOX is typically used to measure pollutants in waste water testing as specified by ISO 9562:2004, to indicate the overall level of halogens and to assess the environmental quality of water.

The method is not specific and not validated for finished products. By testing absorbent hygiene products this way, real-life conditions are not reflected therefore test results are likely to be misleading. Consumers cannot draw any reliable conclusions about the safety of absorbent hygiene products from such tests.

Herbicides and pesticides are substances used in farming to destroy insects or other organisms harmful to crops, plants or to animals. Stories have circulated online that traces of pesticides and the herbicide glyphosate can be found in baby diapers and feminine hygiene products.

Manufacturers of absorbent hygiene products neither add pesticides to their products nor use pesticides during the manufacturing process and carry out strict controls of the final products and their raw materials.

Viscose, cotton, and other polymers used in baby diapers and feminine hygiene products follow strict legal requirements (including EU regulations) and voluntary guidelines on consumer product safety.  Such voluntary guidelines may be published by organisations in the EU Member States, such as the German Institute for risk assessments BfR (‘Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung’)  and the Austrian Health Ministry (in German)

A report on the safety of feminine hygiene products issued by the Swiss Office of Federal Food Safety (OSAV) can be read here (available in French, German and Italian).

In addition, the absorbent materials (such as pulp and cotton) are thoroughly processed and evaluated before their use. During processing, any residues that may be harmful to consumers are removed, and EDANA member companies work closely with their suppliers to ensure this.

INDUSTRY / EDANA statements


Cotton and rayon absorbent fibres used to manufacture menstrual tampons are equally safe for product safety including the risk for contracting TSS.

Tampon manufacturers in Europe have organised themselves within the Absorbent Hygiene Products Working Group of EDANA to coordinate the activities of the tampon manufacturing industry in areas of mutual interest.

January 2019: EDANA STATEMENT ON ANSES DIAPER REPORT  - Manufacturers’ association reasserts safety of products

EDANA, the trade association representing most manufacturers of baby diapers in EMEA, today received notification of the study on diaper safety by the French government agency ANSES. The industry:

  • reassures parents that diapers remain safe for use and shares a mutual interest in product safety
  • reasserts its confidence in the existing stringent safety regulations and rigorous supply chain and manufacturing controls
  • is committed to constant and vigilant product testing and innovation targeting the reduction of unwanted trace compounds

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