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ECHA Launches Call for Evidence on Substances Found in, Among Others, Textile and Leather Articles

On 21 May 2018, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) launched a call for evidence on the use of skin sensitisers, skin irritants and/or corrosive substances in textile and leather articles, hides and furs.

The Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI) and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (Anses) are jointly preparing a so-called Annex XV restriction dossier in order to introduce a new restriction under Annex XVII of Regulation 1907/2006 (the REACH Regulation). Hong Kong traders may recall that Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation restricts the placing on the market of substances, be it on their own, within mixtures or as part of manufactured articles for sale to EU consumers.

The preliminary scope of the proposed restriction covers the placing on the market of finished textile and leather articles, hides and furs “intended to come into direct and prolonged contact with the skin under normal and reasonably foreseeable conditions of use”. Such articles include clothing and related accessories, as well as articles other than clothing which usually come into continuous contact with the human skin, such as bed linen, blankets, upholstery, towels, yarn and fabrics intended for use by consumers, as well as carpets, handbags, backpacks and fashion accessories, but not other textiles such as curtains or table linen.

ECHA’s call for evidence is aimed at interested parties such as manufacturers, importers, formulators and distributors of mixtures used in textile and leather articles, hides and furs, and manufacturers, importers, distributors and suppliers of textile and leather articles, hides and furs. Other interested parties include trade associations, scientific bodies, Member State competent authorities, customs, and any other stakeholders holding relevant information. It is intended to allow interested parties, particularly parties who otherwise might not have been consulted, to submit information and express their views and concerns in the early stages of the procedure leading to the proposed restriction.

By way of background, Hong Kong producers may be aware that a large number of chemicals are involved in the production and processing of textile and leather articles, hides and furs. Chemicals are used in all stages of the process from fibre to finished product, as well as in product distribution.

Some of the chemicals used during manufacturing remain in the finished article (e.g., of clothing or footwear) in such concentrations as may constitute a risk for exposed individuals. Concerns persist that some chemicals are likely to be responsible for allergic contact dermatitis and skin irritation in the EU.

In conducting a preliminary analysis, the national competent authorities found that skin sensitising substances that may be present in finished textile articles should be restricted. The starting point for including substances into the scope of the restriction is given by Regulation 1272/2008 on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (more commonly known as the CLP Regulation).

Certain substances are classified as “Skin Sens. 1/1A/1B”, “Skin Corr. 1/1A/1B/1C” and/or “Skin Irrit. 2” under the CLP Regulation. Such harmonised classification is being proposed as a criterion for inclusion in a possible restriction. Additionally, even substances which are not classified but meet the classification criteria under the CLP Regulation or which are recommended to be classified should fall within the scope of the restriction.

There are currently 1,846 substances with a harmonised classification for either Skin Sens. 1/1A/1B, Skin Corr. 1/1A/1B/1C and/or Skin Irrit. 2. Of these, some 321 substances are likely to be used during production, processing or distribution of textile and leather articles, hides and furs. Furthermore, a number of substances used in textiles and footwear without any of the harmonised classifications above have been identified to cause allergic dermatitis in clinical tests.

A list of the substances concerned by the call for evidence is available in a separate excel file which may be accessed on the ECHA website.

ECHA is particularly interested in knowing which of the substances in the excel table are likely to remain in any of the finished articles which are sold to consumers and their concentrations in the finished products. ECHA would also like to know in what quantities, for what purpose and at which stage of the supply chain the substances are used. If available, ECHA would be interested in specific human health exposure data such as migration rates or solubility, as well as possible substitution alternatives and their technical and economic feasibility.

Hong Kong suppliers may participate as interested parties should they so wish, as businesses and others are invited to submit any information related to these substances to help with the preparation of the restriction dossier. Comments can be submitted confidentially to ECHA via the comments and evidence template. The deadline for providing comments is 3 August 2018.

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