EU Bans Chemical Used in Textile Manufacturing - Global Trade Magazine
  August 6th, 2015 | Written by

EU Bans Chemical Used in Textile Manufacturing

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  • The EU banned the use of NPE in textile manufacturing more than 10 years ago.
  • Apparel companies said the new restriction “will be difficult because NPE is ubiquitous in the supply chain.”
  • The restriction does not apply to second-hand products because washed goods contain negligible amounts of NPE.

The 28 countries that comprise the European Union have unanimously voted to expand an existing ban on a common chemical used in cleaning, dyeing and rinsing textiles.

The EU banned the use of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) in textile manufacturing more than 10 years ago, but the latest move expands the prohibition to include clothing imported by member states.

A number of apparel and textile companies reacted to the decision, telling the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Brussels that compliance with the new restriction “will be difficult because NPE is ubiquitous in the supply chain and has numerous uses.”

The new restriction will not apply to second-hand goods or recycled textiles “because it is assumed these will already have been washed several times so will contain negligible amounts of NPE,” the agency said, adding that, EU countries “must eliminate pollution of water bodies by NPE as it is a priority substance under the Water Framework Directive.”

According to media reports, the decision was based on a pair of reports that found “the chemical enters water supplies during washing, where it disrupts hormones in fish and impacts their fertility and development.”

A 2013 study by the UK environment agency found 29 percent of imported cotton underwear contained NPE, which was released during the first two washes by the consumer.

Last year, a study by the Danish environment agency concluded that the concentrations of NPE in clothing did not pose a risk to human health with brightly colored and Chinese-made clothing containing the highest concentrations of the chemical.


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