Thailand’s Absolute Denim is to become the first denim manufacturer to convert 100% of its production to an aniline-free indigo solution developed by colour and speciality textile chemicals provider Archroma.

Archroma’s Denisol Pure Indigo 30 liquid dye was first launched in May 2018 as a non-toxic way to produce the traditional, iconic indigo blue that consumers associate with denim and jeans. The toxic chemical aniline is beginning to feature on the restricted substance lists (RSL) of some major clothing brands and retailers – and the new dye contains aniline that is “below limits of detection.” 

During production, some of the aniline stays locked into the indigo pigment and is difficult to wash off the fabric, Archroma explains. The remainder of the aniline impurity, about 300 metric tonnes annually, is discharged during dyeing, which can be an issue as aniline is toxic to aquatic life. In addition, exposure levels to factory workers can be high.

Currently, aniline impurities are an unavoidable element of producing indigo-dyed denim, says Archroma. 

According to the firm, scientific testing has shown that aniline impurities are toxic to humans, causing skin allergies, damage to major organs and genetic defects, as well as being linked to cancer. Aniline is also toxic to aquatic life, which is an issue as two-thirds of the 400 metric tonnes of aniline waste on an annual basis ends up in the environment as wastewater discharge.

“Archroma’s aniline free indigo project is something we, as a new generation manufacturer, have supported from the beginning, by opening our doors for tests in the project phase, and now by sending out our articles to many of our customers,” says Vichai Phromvanich, board member at Absolute Denim.