EU member states have approved a European Commission proposal to restrict the use of carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances in clothing, textiles and footwear.
Voted through at the REACH Committee meeting today, the text brings new limits to 33 CMRs. The new law will apply 24 months after publication in the EU Official Journal but first will be scrutinised by the European Parliament and Council.
In 2015, the Commission published a preliminary list of 286 CMRs it proposed to restrict.
The draft annex to the Regulation includes exemptions. The restrictions, it says, will not apply to:
clothing, related accessories or footwear, or parts of clothing, related accessories or footwear, made exclusively of natural leather, fur or hide;
non-textile fasteners and decorative attachments;
second-hand clothing, related accessories, textiles other than clothing or footwear;
clothing, related accessories, textiles other than clothing or footwear used as medical devices; and
‘disposable textiles’ – those designed to be used only once or for a limited time and are not intended for subsequent use for the same or a similar purpose.
CMRs may be present in materials from the production process, the Commission says, or because they are added intentionally to give specific properties, such as to prevent shrinkage or make fabric crease-resistant.
Consumers can be exposed to these chemicals through skin contact, inhalation or unintentional ingestion of dust released from textile fibres. Small children are also at risk due to a possible oral exposure, the EU executive adds.
Last month, eight European trade associations said the draft proposal is “sensible” and “pragmatic”, but they had concerns that it covered complex products, containing parts that are “effectively never in contact with the skin or cannot be considered as strictly textile materials”.
Ahead of the REACH Committee meeting, meanwhile, NGOs said the restriction should cover all CMRs that are category 1A and 1B substances with a harmonised classification; not just the “40 plus substances” for which the Commission “was able to find evidence of use in the textiles sector”.
And consumer organisations Beuc and Anec have said that the proposal should be amended to ensure better protection of small children; regular updates to the list of restricted substances and applicable concentration limits; and disposable textiles are within scope.