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European Commission Publishes Regulations Regarding Restrictions on NPEs in Textiles

The European Commission published a regulation Wednesday that will curb the use of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in textile products sold in all European Union member states.

The restriction—which comes into play after Feb., 3, 2021—bans the sale of any unfinished, semi-finished or finished goods comprising at least 80 percent textile fibers, or any product containing a part that fits those criteria, if their NPE content is at least 0.01% and they can reasonably be expected to be washed in water during their normal lifecycle.

The commission noted that this could impact new clothing, accessories, interior textiles, fibers, yarn, fabrics and knitted panels. Secondhand goods or any new products made exclusively from recycled textiles are exempt from the regulation because it is assumed they will have been washed several times already and will therefore contain negligible amounts of NPE.

Manufacturers now have 60 months, or five years, to adapt their production processes so that they comply with the restriction.

Once commonly found in household laundry detergents and generally used in textile processing as cleaning, dyeing and rinsing agents, NPEs are seen as potentially toxic by many activists, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 2013, Sweden submitted a dossier to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) indicating that NPE posed a risk to the environment. A study that year by the Danish Ministry of the Environment also found that when consumers wash clothes manufactured with even a low amount of the chemicals, residue is released into local water supplies and can be toxic to aquatic species.