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ZDHC Adding PFAS Chemicals to Naughty List

ZDHC announced new harmful chemical substances will be added to its Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) in Version 3.0, including all PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) treatments used for textiles, leather and footwear, as the industry is moving toward cleaner production.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time. Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment.

The EPA said scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals and they are found in many different consumer, commercial and industrial products.

“This makes it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks,” EPA said on its website. “Scientists at EPA, in other federal agencies, and in academia and industry are continuing to conduct and review the growing body of research about PFAS. However, health effects associated with exposure to PFAS are difficult to specify for many reasons.”

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The agency said current peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to reproductive effects, such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women; developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations or behavioral changes; increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney and testicular cancers; reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response; interference with the body’s natural hormones and increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.

The updated ZDHC MRSL V3.0 will be published Nov. 1, with a transition period of 12 months for effective implementation by all stakeholders. The updated ZDHC MRSL V3.0 will now align with Bluesign’s planned removal of all existing Bluesign Approved PFAs containing formulations from the Bluesign Finder to restrict PFAs under REACH for all non-essential uses, including in consumer products.

“ZDHC MRSL has clearly evolved as the gold standard for cleaner input chemicals in the global textile supply chain. ZDHC MRSL Version 3.0 remains contemporary with the inclusion of newer chemicals of concern and reducing the permissible limits for impurities,” Ullhas M. Nimkar, president of the Society of Dyers and Colourists and a member of the ZDHC MRSL Council. “This has been possible as the chemicals, commonly known as ‘forever chemicals’ have been moved from the candidate list into the main list. This is a significant change which will be better for the environment.”

The independent MRSL Advisory Council (MAC) composed of industry, NGO, and academic experts used a science-based process for updating the ZDHC MRSL. This ensures an objective evaluation of chemical substances. The MAC made the final decisions regarding the substances added to the list and their limit values.

“The new ZDHC MRSL Version 3.0 sets a clear and unified signal from the apparel and footwear sector of the chemistries that need to be avoided across this and other manufacturing sectors, as well as where innovation is needed,” Joel Tickner, professor of public health at UMass Lowell and executive director of the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council, said. “The restriction on all PFAS for textile, leather and footwear finishing is consistent with growing scientific and policy concerns about the impacts of the class of PFAS chemicals. We look forward to working with ZDHC in growing the commercialization, adoption, scale of safer, more sustainable chemistries and materials to address the toxicity, biodiversity and climate impacts of our current generation of chemicals.”

The ZDHC MRSL bans certain harmful chemical substances from intentional use in manufacturing facilities that process textile materials, synthetic leather, leather, and trim parts in textiles and footwear. It offers the industry a harmonized list of banned chemical substances and enables the ZDHC Gateway Chemical Module, the industry’s largest list of safer alternative chemical formulations meeting the ZDHC MRSL requirement.

By using MRSL conformant chemical formulations found on the ZDHC Gateway, suppliers can assure their customers that they adhere to the requirements of the ZDHC MRSL, speeding up the industry’s journey on its course toward a better environmental footprint.

The ZDHC MRSL Version 3.0 follows two previous updates of the ZDHC MRSL that achieved industrywide alignment through a gap analysis of previously existing brand-specific MRSLs. Changes include a restriction on all PFA substances, a limit for aniline in dyestuffs and the inclusion of a number of organic solvents.

According to Phil Patterson, chair of the MRSL Advisory Council who led the review process, “the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Program continues to evolve.”

“This enables us to take a tough but pragmatic approach to previously challenging topics such as solvents and chemicals that are recognized as being harmful but necessary for critical end uses, such as medical textiles or items for first responders,” Patterson added.