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European Commission Proposes Restrictions on Use of NPEs in Textiles

European Union officials announced on Thursday that proposed restrictions on the use of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in textiles will apply from the end of 2020.

Following suggestions made last year by the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC), the European Commission has drafted a regulation that would prohibit the sale of any textiles in Europe that can “reasonably be expected to be washed in water during their normal lifecycle” if they contain at least a 0.01% mass of NPE.

The draft regulation, which the World Trade Organization has been notified of, allows exemptions for secondhand textiles and new textiles produced exclusively from recycled fabric.

NPEs, once commonly found in household laundry detergents and generally used in textile processing, are a potentially harmful class of chemical substances, according to many activists including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While apparel manufactured with NPEs does not pose direct health hazards to the wearers, studies have shown that when consumers wash these clothes, NPE residue is released into local water supplies and can be toxic to aquatic species. The E.U. has restricted the sale and use of textiles containing more than 0.1 percent NPE since 2005.

Adoption is proposed for the last quarter of 2015, after which manufacturers will have 60 months (or five years) to adapt their production processes so that they comply with the restriction.