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EU Restricts Substance ‘PFOA’ Used in Textile Products, Among Others

On 14 June 2017, the Official Journal published Commission Regulation 2017/1000 adding perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation. Hong Kong traders may recall that PFOA had been identified as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substance (PBT) under the EU’s chemicals law framework, the REACH Regulation, and has been included in the REACH Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) since 2013.

Manufacturers in Hong Kong may be aware that PFOA is widely used in various industries due to its qualities as a water, grease, oil and dirt repellent. In the textile industry, it serves as a treatment for apparel (e.g., water resistant and stain resistant outdoor clothing) and home textiles (e.g., carpeting, upholstery). PFOA is also used to manufacture non-stick cookware (e.g. teflon-coated pans) and ‘takeout’ food containers (e.g., pizza boxes and food contact paper). PFOA is equally present in cosmetic products (e.g., dental floss), industrial and household cleaners (e.g., floor wax and wax removers), stone, tile, and wood sealants, treated non-woven medical garments and fire-fighting foams.

Based on the opinions of the European Chemicals Agency’s Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC), the Commission concluded that the manufacture, use or placing on the market of PFOA, including its salts and PFOA-related substances, either on their own or as a constituent of other substances, in mixtures and in articles, all constitute an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment. A general restriction on the manufacture, use and placing on the EU market of PFOA had been suggested by the RAC as the most appropriate measure to address the identified risks and to effectively reduce them. The Commission therefore added PFOA as the 68th item on the REACH Annex XVII list of EU-wide restrictions.

Hong Kong traders should take into account that the restriction will come into force in different phases. Its application will be deferred generally for three years to allow stakeholders to take the necessary compliance measures. There will be even longer deferrals for certain specified sectors due to a lack of alternatives, relatively low emissions into the environment and critical uses with high societal benefits (e.g. textiles for the protection of workers, non-implantable medical devices).

Hong Kong traders should be aware that from 4 July 2020, PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related substances will be prohibited from being manufactured or placed on the EU market as substances on their own or in another substance as a constituent, mixture, or article. The restriction applies in respect of a concentration equal to or above 25 ppb of PFOA, including its salts, or 1,000 ppb of one or a combination of PFOA-related substances.

From 4 July 2022, this restriction will be extended to equipment used to manufacture semi-conductors and latex printing inks. From 4 July 2023 it will also apply to textiles for the protection of workers from risks to their health and safety, membranes intended for use in medical textiles, filtration in water treatment, production processes and effluent treatment, and plasma nano-coatings.

There is an exhaustive list of exemptions to which the restriction is not applicable, e.g. fire-fighting foam mixtures, or articles in general, which are placed on the market before 4 July 2020.

Please click on the following to view Commission Regulation 2017/1000.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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