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EU agrees to ban NPE textile chemicals
Jul '15
EU member states have agreed to ban a toxic substance widely found in clothing because it poses an “unacceptable risk” to the environment, according to media reports.

Countries unanimously voted in favour of extending existing restrictions on nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) to imports of clothing and other textile products.

The proposal ban the chemical was brought forward by Sweden in 2013 and backed by scientists at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

NPE degrades in the environment into substances including nonylphenol (NP), which accumulates in the bodies of fish and disrupts their hormones, harming fertility, growth and sexual development.

NPE is used in textile manufacture as a cleaning, dyeing and rinsing agent. The draft EU decision notes that several studies have found NPE to be present in textile items.

The new ban on textiles containing NPE in concentrations equal to or greater than 0.01 per cent will enter into force five years after it is adopted by the European Commission, which is likely to happen in the next month or so.

The ban is a huge victory for Detox campaigners of Greenpeace. “This is a clear message from EU policymakers and millions of consumers that hazardous chemicals do not belong in our clothing,” said Vixiu Wu, Global Detox campaigner at Greenpeace, East Asia.

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

The measure is intended to protect aquatic species. Use of NPE in textile manufacture in Europe was banned over 10 years ago but the substance is still released into the aquatic environment through imported textiles being washed.

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 in 2011, which found toxic chemicals in waste water discharge from two textile processing facilities in China supplying global apparel firms. It also pointed out a loophole in the EU's REACH chemical regulations.

The study found NPE in two-thirds of clothes tested, including items sold by brands such as Adidas, H&M, Lacoste, and Ralph Lauren. The NGO argued that although concentrations of NPE found in the clothes were low, the chemical's ubiquity in the environment posed a risk. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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