It is difficult to believe that anyone would deliberately manufacture articles that are harmful to humans and the environment. It nevertheless happens that substances of very high concern are present in such products as textiles. It is the companies that place articles on the market that are responsible for ensuring that they are not harmful to human health or the environment. Many Swedish companies that handle textiles have been working to reduce chemical risks for many years, while others have not yet had time to start. New avenues need to be explored and new solutions have to be found.

This represents a challenge. Companies need to actively gather knowledge, exercise caution, phase out substances of very high concern and steadily reduce the risks. Active control of chemicals at the company makes it easier to respond to alerts, new rules on chemicals and worried consumers.

This brochure, Chemicals in Textiles, has been produced to assist both companies that already have good chemical control and those that feel that the time has come to face up to chemical issues. The brochure contains facts about chemicals in textiles and practical advice for companies in this sector.

The textile industry a chemical intensive sector

More textiles than ever are now manufactured and used, and chemicals are added for an ever increasing number of purposes. And these chemicals do indeed offer certain benefits. They can, for example, make the manufacturing processes easier and endow the final products with a specific function or a particular desirable appearance. These textiles may, for example, be greenhouse fabrics that reflect the sun, flameproof furniture fabrics, durable airbags for vehicles, colour-coordinated bath towels, hard-wearing sweaters or workwear that effectively withstands moisture and dirt. Without chemicals it would almost be impossible to produce modern textiles.

But the increased use of chemicals has a downside. These substances may pose risks to the environment and human health which may have unsuspected consequences for the future. Chemicals therefore need to be used in a more sustainable way. Hazardous substances should not be used unnecessarily, and newly produced articles should not contain substances that have properties of very high concern from the points of view of human health or the environment.

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Originally published in New Cloth Market, March-2011