EC Publishes RPS Research on Allergenic Chemicals in Textiles

27.03.13

RPS’ recently completed evaluation on the casual links between chemicals used in the manufacture of and remaining on finished textile products and allergic reactions for the European Commission is now published on the EC website.

This study is commissioned by the EC regarding Article 25 (and recital 27) of the Regulation 1007/2011/EU [1] which requires the Commission to assess hazardous substances used in textile products; in particular to carry out a study to evaluate whether there is a causal link between allergic reactions and chemical substances or mixtures used in textile products in order to prepare, where appropriate, legislative proposals in the context of existing EU legislation.

There are several substances with hazardous properties, whose concentration in textile products such as clothing, footwear and domestic textiles is not consistently and widely reported. Substances of concern include carcinogens, mutagens, those containing reproductive or endocrine disruptors, those that can cause allergic reactions through skin contact or inhalation, and those that may be hazardous to the environment.

RPS’ research (focussing specifically on substances that may cause allergic reactions) used available scientific literature, epidemiological information and information obtained via direct consultation with the textile industry and reviewed existing related EC regulations. A lack of current information on the use concentrations of allergenic chemicals in finished textile products in the textile industry and a lack of standard testing method on allergies related to textiles created a barrier to establishing any solid conclusive links.

The study was able to conclude that allergic reactions can be induced by textile dyes, finish resins and some other chemicals such as flame retardants and biocides, and has been successful in informing a three-category priority list of sensitising and irritating substances for the EC to consider setting up risk management measures for under the EC Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures Regulation (CLP), where it is found to be appropriate. The categories are:

1.  Substances with classification of sensitisers included in the classification and labelling (C&L) Inventory and intended to remain on finished textile products.
2.  Substances with harmonised classification of sensitiser which, though not intended to remain, do remain on finished textile products and cause textile allergies (e.g. through impurity or component in formulation).
3.  3. Substances with harmonised classification of irritant and intended to remain on finished textile products.

Resulting from the research, the study proposes that three different types of regulatory and non-regulatory actions are considered:

To provide new consumer information requirements under existing legislation
To combine non-regulatory and further harmonisation of control procedures of the presence of sensitisers against information on labels
Derivation and harmonisation of limit values based on quantative risk assessment methods
Further analysis for possible regulatory actions especially for chemicals in category 2
Further investigation on exposure and risk assessment of allergenic chemicals used in textiles.

A recent letter [3] submitted to EU Commissioners by the Swedish Minister of Environment also highlights a need for more ‘coherent legislation’ and ‘common rules’ to simplify requirements and benefit trade outside the EU (where many European consumer textile products are manufactured) as well as within it to reduce risk and in long-term human health and environmental interests.

The study can be viewed here.

Notes:

[1] The new regulation for labelling was brought in on 27th September 2011, stating that: The labelling and marking of textile products must be "durable, legible, visible and accessible"; Labels must be firmly fixed; Name and percentage in weight of all fibres in the item must be listed in descending order. Fibres that are less than 5% of the total product weight, or together with other fibres are less than 15% of total product weight can be listed as ‘Other fibres’. Textile products made by independent tailors do not need to comply with the labelling regulation.
[2] European Parliament press release 20110510IPR19126
[3] Available to view on the Government Offices of Sweden website.