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358 Chemicals Found in Clothing and Textile Products May be Restricted by the EU

August 23, 2018 | News,

The pressure on the apparel industry to better understand the use of chemicals in their clothing and textile products is increasing.

In recent months we’ve seen proposed changes that wouldn’t just affect a small segment of companies, but all involved in clothing and textiles from manufacturers to retailers. 

Earlier in the year, the European Commission proposed fast tracking the restriction of 33 CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction) substances in textiles, which has since been supported by the member states. 

While it was generally agreed that this restriction is a good first step, some have pointed out the scope of chemicals is limited compared to the original proposed restriction of 286 CMR substances. The proposal also doesn’t address other problematic chemicals such as irritants, sensitisers, and endocrine disruptors that may be found in textiles.

New restriction proposal impacting textile and leather articles

To address the limitations of the earlier CMR restriction proposal, authorities of France and Sweden are jointly preparing an Annex XV restriction dossier on the use of skin irritants, sensitisers and corrosive substances in finished textile and leather articles, which are made to come into direct and prolonged contact with the skin. This includes products such as clothing, footwear and other articles.

The proposal is wide ranging and will affect manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. The deadline to submit evidence closed on 3rd September 2018.  

New study finds harmful chemicals in footwear and clothing items

Additional evidence supporting these concerns and proposed restrictions includes the recent study conducted by ANSES (the French Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health and Safety).

ANSES investigated the presence of skin irritating or sensitising chemicals potentially found in footwear and clothing items that had been the subject to customer complaints. The study also reviewed the literature and knowledge on the toxicity of these substances to formulate recommendations for the industry.

After testing 25 new clothing articles and 14 footwear products, the French study uncovered the presence of 20 potential allergens and skin irritants in clothing and 50 substances in footwear items.

Tests confirmed the presence of heavy metals (such as lead and mercury), nonylphenols and formaldehyde, among others. Such substances can cause severe skin burns and eye damage.

They also identified other substances not routinely tested for, such as 1,4-paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which was found in 20% of the textile clothing articles, as well as organotin derivatives and azo dyes, which can all cause contact dermatitis.

PPD is in the sights of the proposed restriction along with another 357 substances identified in the skin irritant, corrosive or sensitising classification. The final figure for restriction may well change as a result of the call for evidence and further regulatory steps before implementation.

The new research from ANSES is likely to impact future restriction proposals for the textile industry.

Clothing brands need to understand what goes into their products

Knowing what goes into your textile and clothing products is more important than ever.

Previously the pressure came mostly from NGOs who focused on the larger, high profile brands, the authority requirements will not differentiate between big or small companies. Whilst any legal requirement will only work if accompanied by consistent and strict enforcement, the ANSES study shows that authorities have started to take actions in this direction.

No matter where you are in this journey, Anthesis are uniquely positioned in this field to help you. We’ve supported companies in chemical management, sustainability strategy development, target setting, Higg Index analytics, supply chain mapping, chemicals hot spotting and alternative analysis.

For more details about chemicals in clothing, contact Pearl Nemeth, Anthesis’ Global Sustainable Chemistry Coordinator or download our Apparel and Textile guide today to get an overview of the key areas where you can make a positive business impact.    

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