THE EUROPEAN Commission has adopted a regulation* tightening use restrictions for 33 carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) substances in clothing and textiles.

The rules amend existing restrictions in the REACH chemicals regulation 1907/2006. They set maximum concentration limits for chemicals “particularly harmful in case of frequent contact with human skin”, the Commission said in an October 10 press note.

Permitted levels range from 1mg/kg for cadmium, chromium, arsenic, and lead to 3,000mg/kg for N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF). From October 12, 2020, textiles with CMR substances over these limits cannot be marketed in the European Union (EU), regardless of their origin of production.

The substances were selected after “scientific and technical recommendations by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)” and “a broad consultation, including with industry”, a Commission official told World Textile Information Network (WTIN) on October 12.

They can be present from the production process or added intentionally to prevent shrinkage or make fabric crease-resistant, she said.

But, it is very difficult to link cancer, mutagenesis or reproductive problems to the specific article which may have caused it, she explained.

The regulation covers “other textiles” like bed linen as well as clothes. Leather, fur and non-textile fasteners are exempt as “different chemical substances and processes are used in their production”.

Carpets and floor coverings are also not covered, due to “potential regulatory overlap and because other substances may be relevant for them”.

And until October 12, 2023, formaldehyde (due to lack of information on suitable alternatives), used in jackets, coats and upholstery, will have a 300mg/kg limit, so textile manufacturers can adapt to the 75mg/kg restriction.

The European Apparel and Textile Confederation (EURATEX)’s sustainable businesses director Mauro Scalia welcomed the “EU’s effort to increase consumer protection”. But he emphasised industry already uses voluntary systems setting requirements for CMR chemicals, such as the ZDHC Foundation’s MRSL (manufacturing restricted substances list)** and Oeko-tex and ZDHC certification.

Mr Scalia warned the law “may ultimately increase verification costs of European and global businesses which already observe legislation and customer requirements,” adding, “without proper market surveillance mechanisms”, the rules may not ensure consumer and environmental safety.




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