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European Commission Gets More Serious About Protecting Consumers from Hazardous Chemicals

The chemical makeup of an apparel product has the potential to be harmful to human health, and the European Commission (EC) is taking further steps to protect its consumers from such hazardous substances.

Under the European Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the European Union’s legislative framework for chemicals, the EC proposed to minimize the exposure to 33 chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) found in some clothing, footwear and textile products.

On Friday, in a REACH committee vote, the majority of European Union countries supported the proposal that aims to limit products with harmful substances in the region and protect the consumers who buy them.

Most restrictive substances are found in the production process or added to products to make the fabric crease resistant and shrink resistant. The proposal would restrict or ban garments, footwear and textiles containing the listed substances from the European Union market. Products made in the European Union or imported into the European Union are covered by the proposal, and if they contain any of the restricted substances, businesses will not be allowed to sell them to European Union consumers.

According to the EU, consumers can be exposed to these hazardous chemicals through inhalation, unintentional ingestion of dust released from textile fibers and skin contact. In addition, small children are also at risk, since they could swallow products containing these harmful substances.

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The proposal will become applicable in the next 24 months after undergoing analysis by the European Parliament and EC, and will be published in the EU’s Official Journal, a document containing the region’s daily legislative actions.

The proposal comes on the heels of other compliance milestones focused on protecting both the planet and European Union consumers in particular.

In March, the EU introduced an innovation observatory for shared ideas on textile sustainability, a new initiative designed to minimize the region’s industrial pollution problems. With the shared observatory, stakeholders can submit better information on emerging techniques that could help the EU curb its carbon footprint and minimize hazardous substances found in some apparel, textile and footwear products.

Earlier in the year, the EC also called on international authorities and the fashion industry to reduce microplastics pollution and make the switch to a more circular economy. With its pledging campaign, the EC aims to take 10 million tons of recycled plastics and turn them into new products within the European Union market by 2025.