The European Union (EU) has introduced new restrictions on 33 carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) chemicals used in clothing, textiles and footwear.

The move, which came into effect on 1 November, is aimed at protecting EU consumers from hazardous substances in frequent contact with human skin, which are known to cause cancer and reproductive health problems.

“The health and well-being of our citizens is of paramount importance, now more than ever, said Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for the Internal Market. “The restriction is the result of good cooperation between the Commission, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the chemical and textile industries, NGOs and medical specialists aiming to ensure the safety of these products for our citizens.”

The restriction specifies maximum concentration limits established for individual substances or groups of substances potentially present in these products, including for substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cadmium, chromium, lead and its compounds and phthalates, among others.

It also contributes to reducing the environmental emissions of these hazardous substances, which can occur for example during washing, and enhance the quality of recycled textile materials. The restriction is based on the EU’s REACH Regulation, which provides the world’s highest protection of human health and the environment.

A new policy paper recently released by the European Commission flags several important changes that the EU executive intends to make to European chemical legislation that will impact the textile sector – including a major overhaul of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) system.