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Oeko-Tex Updates Standards for Chemicals Usage in Textiles and Leather

Oeko-Tex has issued amended regulations for 2019 as part of its goal of reinforcing consumer protection and sustainability along the textiles and leather supply chain.

The new regulations, which will now comply with the European Union’s REACH chemicals standards, will come into effect on April 1 after a three-month transition period. Last month, the European Commission (EC) moved to restrict the use of four phthalates–substances known to have toxic effects on human reproductive health–in consumer products such as coated fabrics and sport equipment. These come on top of 33 hazardous substances in clothing, footwear and other textile articles the EC restricted in October under the REACH regulations.

Important changes for companies that are part of Oeko-Tex’s various certification programs have the substance benzene and four amine salts being included in the Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex and Leather Standard by Oeko-Tex programs with limit values defined. The substance quinoline, which has been under observation by Oeko-Tex since 2018, is now also regulated with a limit value.

The Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex is a worldwide consistent, independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used.

“For over 25 years, Oeko-Tex’s strategy has not been to wait for legislation but to be proactive in the field of consumer protection as a pioneer,” the organization said. “As a result of the implementation [of these] updates, the Standard 100 and Leather Standard already comply with the requirements of the new REACH Annex XVII CMR Legislation. In contrast, this legislation addressing 33 (carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction] CMR substances will only be applied for products from Nov. 1, 2020 on. Thus, Oeko-Tex is way ahead and also covers many other parameters related to consumer protection.”

Oek-Tex also made new additions to the limit value catalogues. These include various “Substances of Very High Concern”–siloxanes D4, D5 and D6–as well as diazene dicarboxamide, while a requirement has been added to the extractable part of the metals barium and selenium.

Limit values have been made stricter for Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex for phthalates (softeners), alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates, as well for perfluorinated and polyfluorinated compounds.

“The even more stringent requirements for residues in textile materials will result in an overall lower impact on the environment, workers and consumers,” Oeko-Tex said.

In 2019 two new product groups will be under observation: glyphosate and its salts, as well as the carcinogenic N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosatable substances. Oeko-Tex noted that glyphosate products, commonly used in herbicides, received significant media attention in the past two years and “were the subject of fierce controversial debates around the world.”

“At the end of 2017, approval for glyphosate and for further use was only temporarily extended by the EU to five years, under protest from different consumer groups and environmentalists,” the organization said. “With the ‘under observation’ action, the Oeko-Tex Association is now looking more closely at the substance group in relevant textile materials and is analyzing the situation in more detail.”

Oeko-Tex’s STeP assessment will be extended to leather production facilities in 2019. The program name will also be changed to Sustainable Textile and Leather Production,” although the product name STeP stays the same. STeP by Oeko-Tex is a certification system for brands, retail companies and manufacturers from the textile chain that want to communicate their achievements regarding sustainable manufacturing processes to the public in a transparent, credible and clear manner.

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