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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Skin allergies: restrict chemicals in textiles, leather, fur and hides

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News of 29/04/2019

In order to protect consumers more effectively from the risks of skin allergies, ANSES and the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) have jointly submitted a restriction proposal for sensitising substances under the European chemicals regulation (REACh). This proposal aims to ban or limit more than a thousand skin allergens in articles made from textiles, leather, fur and hides.

In response to several cases of skin allergies linked mainly to textile clothing, ANSES conducted an expert appraisal in June 2018 to identify the chemicals in certain articles that might be responsible. In turn, KEMI carried out an analysis of the best risk management option (RMOA) for skin sensitisers in textiles, under the REACh Regulation. Following on from this work, ANSES and KEMI jointly prepared a restriction proposal for sensitising substances for the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), with the aim of better protecting consumers from the risks of skin allergies.

Restrict more than a thousand skin sensitisers

The proposed restriction is designed to limit the presence of skin sensitisers in articles made from textiles, leather, fur and hides sold to the general public. It covers more than a thousand chemicals and, specifically, all substances classified as skin sensitisers under the European regulation on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP), as well as 25 substances from the class of disperse dyes with sensitising properties.

As part of the restriction dossier, a risk assessment was carried out to determine the maximum concentrations of these substances not to be exceeded in order to protect consumers. This work led to the following proposals:

  • Prohibit the presence of disperse dyes with sensitising properties in finished articles made from textiles, leather, fur and hides
  • Limit the concentration of sensitising substances to the following thresholds:
    • 1 mg/kg for chromium VI compounds (textiles, leather, fur and hides)
    • 130 mg/kg (textiles) and 110 mg/kg (leather, fur and hides) for nickel and its compounds
    • 70 mg/kg (textiles) and 60 mg/kg (leather, fur and hides) for cobalt and its compounds
    • 75 mg/kg for formaldehyde (textiles, leather, fur and hides)
    • 250 mg/kg (textiles) and 210 mg/kg (leather, fur and hides) for 1,4-paraphenylenediamine
    • 130 mg/kg (textiles) and 110 mg/kg (leather, fur and hides) for other substances classified as skin sensitisers.

An analysis of possible alternatives to these substances was also carried out. In particular, there are chemical alternatives for disperse dyes, for which substitution is feasible and has already begun in Europe. For other classes of substances such as diisocyanates, implementing best practices in production should help reduce or eliminate their presence in finished articles.

The restriction proposal also includes a detailed assessment of the economic impacts (costs of substitution, verification and implementation) with regard to the expected health benefits (skin allergies avoided), which are also quantified in terms of costs avoided.

This restriction proposal was published on ECHA's website on 24 April 2019, and will soon be the subject of a six-month public consultation. Following this consultation stage and on the basis of all the data, ECHA's committees will formulate an opinion that will be forwarded to the European Commission, which will decide whether or not to adopt this restriction. If this proposal is adopted, it will be included in Annex XVII of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (REACh) and will therefore be mandatory for textiles, leather, fur and hides placed on the market in Europe.