BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 01 Aug '15

Breakthrough for EU consumers as toxic chemical is banned from textile imports

In a landmark decision, EU member states have unanimously agreed to ban a toxic chemical from clothing imports, closing a trade loophole that previously put the health of its citizens and environment at risk.

Fashion Revolution Day – join fashionistas to demand the global fashion industry cleans up its act

A ticking clock

The ban follows grassroots campaigns throughout Europe and Greenpeace’s call for the restriction of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE), which are used as surfactants in textile production and subsequently breakdown to form toxic nonylphenol (NP).

Nonylphenol is a persistent chemical with hormone-disrupting properties that builds up in the food chain and is hazardous even at very low levels.

‘This is a clear message from EU policymakers and millions of consumers that hazardous chemicals do not belong in our clothing.

‘For manufacturing countries such as China, whose largest trade partner has been Europe for more than a decade, textile production relies heavily on exporting to the EU market, the clock is ticking to phase out NPE.

‘China’s textile industry needs to be more progressive in identifying and banning harmful chemicals from their products otherwise they will lose a key market.’

Yixiu Wu, Global Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia

Dirty laundry

The wide use of NPE in the textile industry was brought to light by a Greenpeace International report, Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry.

The investigation involved the analysis of 78 articles of sports and recreational clothing and shoes bearing the logos of 15 leading clothing brands: Abercombie & Fitch, adidas, Calvin Klein, Converse, GAP, G-Star RAW, H&M, Kappa, Lacoste, Li Ning, Nike, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Uniqlo and Youngor.

Of the 78 articles analysed, 52 (two-thirds) tested positive for the presence of NPEs above the limit of detection of 1 milligram NPEs/kilogram material (mg/kg).

Loophole in EU regs

Released in 2011, the report initially attracted lots of media attention as it pointed out a loophole in the EU’s REACH chemical regulations.

While NPE was banned in textile products within the EU, it did not ban the use of NPE in imported textile products.

‘Hundreds of thousands of supporters have called on high street brands such as Gap, Nike, and Diesel to clean up their supply chain.

‘This is a huge win for a cleaner, toxic free future. Greenpeace is calling on the brands and suppliers to become champions for a toxic free future, by eliminating all releases of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and their products.’

Yixiu Wu, Global Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia

The European Commission is expected to approve the ban in the upcoming weeks. It will take effect within five years, allowing the fashion industry lots of time to remove NPE from its supply chain.

Click here to read the full Greenpeace International report, Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry.