Hazardous chemicals in textiles: absence of rules puts consumers at risk

BEUC NEWS - 08.03.2016

The European Commission wants to limit almost 300 hazardous substances in textile articles and clothing. BEUC welcomes this initiative but underlines its limitations in adequately protecting consumers from harmful chemicals in textiles.


BEUC and  its sister organisation ANEC have published a response to the European Commission’s consultation on how to better protect consumers from chemicals in textiles which are known to cause cancer, affect one’s DNA or harm our reproductive systems. These are called CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction) substances. We believe consumers should not be exposed to these hazardous chemicals in textiles.

So the Commission’s move to limit them is welcome. But its decision to focus only on cancer-causing, mutagenic (DNA-affecting) and reprotoxic (harming our reproductive systems) chemicals will not fully protect consumers’ health and safety from hazardous chemicals in textiles. BEUC’s members have carried out comparative product tests to show there is a much wider range of worrying chemicals present in our clothing, such as sensitisers (causing allergies) or endocrine disruptors. The Commission needs to restrict these kinds of chemicals too.

The decision to restrict a chemical in textiles will depend on whether respondents to the consultation can provide evidence of its presence in the first place, for instance through testing. This approach is not in line with the precautionary approach and the thinking behind REACH, which requires manufacturers, not civil society or regulators, to provide evidence of safe use.

More information on our position Protecting consumers from hazardous chemicals in textiles can be found here.