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Bluesign Targets Aniline in 2021 Chemical Substance List Revisions

Bluesign’s 2021 chemical substance update may have just refueled a longtime denim debate.

The company, which produces solutions for sustainable textile production, tightened its restrictions on aniline, a substance used in the production of indigo dye. Under the new standards, aniline-reduced indigo is now a requirement for Bluesign-approved indigo types, and aniline is restricted in other dyes and auxiliaries with a limit of 500 mg/kg.

Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there’s evidence that aniline could cause cancer in humans, the data is inconclusive—and this gray area has sparked a debate among some denim experts who feel the small amount that remains in denim after washing is safe for human contact. Further, they feel circulating vintage garments that may contain higher amounts is still a more sustainable option than discarding them altogether.

Despite the back and forth, many denim supply chain partners have since gone aniline-free.

But aniline wasn’t the only target for Bluesign. It also defined a consumer safety limit for 2-pyrrolidone—a solvent used in inks—and set a mid-term goal of defining a usage ban for this solvent, which has to be classified as toxic for reproduction, according to recent studies.

Bluesign is also tightening restrictions on 2-Butanone oxime, a carcinogenic substance it had previously included on its list. The free content of this substance, which is used as a blocking agent for polyurethanes, is now limited in chemical products, with plans for an eventual total usage ban.

Following the notion that residual monomers can help eliminate hazardous chemicals in the textile supply chain, Bluesign defined a usage ban for monomers N-methylolacrylamide and 1-vinylimidazole.

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The company’s 2021 revision was created in accordance with the latest updates in scientific findings regarding the toxicological and ecological profile of substances, legal classification of chemical substances, legal consumer safety limits, risk assessments based on the Bluesign criteria for chemical assessment, feedback from experts of the Chemical Expert Group (CEG) as well as new analytical standards.

The updates were made across each of its published lists, including the Bluesign System Substances List (BSSL), which specifies limits for chemical substances in articles (consumer safety limits); the Bluesign System Black Limits (BSBL), which specifies threshold limits for chemical substances in finished chemical products; and the Bluesign RSL, which is an extract of the BSSL and contains consumer safety limits and recommended testing methods for the most important and legally restricted substances in textile and leather articles and accessories. These lists are updated each year to reflect new findings. New standards went into effect at the beginning of the month.

Bluesign is a trusted source among manufacturers and brands in the outdoor, sportswear and fashion industries. Its Bluesign System eliminates harmful substances from the beginning of the textile manufacturing process, and sets and controls standards for an environmentally friendly and safe production. Recently, the German government recognized the Bluesign System as a qualifier for Green Public Procurement (GPP), a European initiative that creates more demand for sustainable goods.