ANALYSIS SIGILLUM: EU 2020 – Implementation of restrictions on phthalates and CMRs in fashion articles

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EU 2020: Implementation of restrictions on phthalates and CMRs in fashion articles

In this year 2020, two important amendments will be applied in the European Union market regarding to the regulation commonly known as REACH (EC Regulation No 1907/2006). These modifications will have a great impact on the fashion industry.

As of July 7, 2020, the restriction of the phthalates DEHP, DBP, BBP, DIBP in the plastic parts of any article will be implemented. Initially, the restriction of phthalates in plastic parts of the REACH regulation applied to the plastic material of toys and childcare articles, but with the new amendment (2018/2005/EU), approved in December 2018, the scope of the restriction has been extended to all consumer products, including fashion articles. This amendment becomes effective after a transition period of 18 months from its entry into force, in order to take appropriate measures to comply with it.

Phthalates are chemicals added to plastics to make them more flexible and prevent cracking or breaking. For this reason, they can frequently appear on plastic parts of fashion products such as prints, surface coatings, adhesives (e.g. footwear and accessories), etc.

The use of phthalates and their content in articles is regulated because they can be harmful to human health. Thus, in addition to Europe, phthalates are legally restricted in fashion articles in other important markets, such as China, South Korea, Egypt or the member countries of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).

Furthermore, as of November 1, 2020, clothing and related accessories, other textiles and footwear containing certain CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction) shall not be marketed in the EU in accordance with the 2018/1513/EU amendment of the REACH regulation, after the end of the 24-month transition period to take the appropriate measures. The aim of this amendment is to minimize consumer exposure to CMR substances by banning them in concentrations above a certain level.

There are 33 regulated CMR substances, which can be grouped into: extractable heavy metals, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), formaldehyde, other phthalates, organochlorinated compounds, solvents, dyes (or dye impurities) and quinoline. In fashion articles, these substances can be present either as impurities in materials or chemicals used during the manufacturing process or because they have been intentionally added to give them specific properties. For example, PAHs are not used in textile industry but can appear as impurities in some materials (e.g. rubber parts). On the contrary, formaldehyde is a substance commonly used in textile and leather industries as a preservative, anti-wrinkle agent, in color fixing agents, in retanning agents, etc. because it is very reactive, soluble in water and cheap.

Some of these substances classified as CMRs are also regulated and controlled in other markets (e.g. formaldehyde, extractable heavy metals or PAHs), while others are regulated for the first time in fashion articles in this amendment (e.g. DMF, NMP , DMAC, quinoline, benzene) and it will be necessary to include them in the analysis protocols to keep them under control.

The European Commission has published an explanatory guide to clarify some points of this amendment and help the industry to comply with it. From Sigillum Knowledge Solutions, based on our technical knowledge and experience in manufacturing processes of fashion articles, we can advise you on everything related to compliance with these new amendments to the REACH regulation.

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