EU tries to block use of carcinogenic textile chemical

brett mathews | 23rd November 2018

BRUSSELS – For only the second time ever, the European Parliament Environment Committee (Envi) has tried to block the use of a potentially hazardous chemical – a known carcinogenic – which is used in wool manufacture. The Committee has tabled a resolution against the draft decision from the EU Commission to grant an authorisation for using sodium dichromate, which is classified as cancerogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction. The application for authorisation was submitted by Italian company Ilario Ormezzano Sai with the intention of continuing to use this chemical for the dyeing of wool. However, last year during the discussion of a similar application for authorisation by Gruppa Colle4, it was shown that safer alternatives produced by Huntsman and Dystar are already available on the market.

REACH regulation clearly states that no authorisation for a chemical should be granted if there are safer alternatives already available on the market. However, REACH has regularly been accused of having no teeth. Moreover, the Commission has endorsed the REACH committee decisions in all 172 Authorisation cases so far.

In this particular case, Envi argues that safer alternative chemicals are readily available, which are comparable in cost and performance and used by the majority of wool houses in the European Union.

“To us, it is clear that authorisation should not be granted since the majority of wool houses in Europe do not use this hazardous substance anymore”, says Frida Hök, senior policy advisor at ChemSec told Apparel Insider. “To us, it is clear that authorisation should not be granted”

Up until now, the application had been recommended a seven-year authorisation period from ECHA Committees; RAC and SEAC. SEAC assesses the socio-economic factors and the availability, suitability and technical feasibility of the alternatives when an application for authorisation is submitted.

The EU Commission has in its draft decision changed the authorisation period to four years, which indicates that they recognise the existence of available alternatives.

“This case shows that a political discussion about the role and work of the SEAC Committee is greatly needed. It is also necessary to change the way alternatives are found and evaluated in the authorisation process as a whole,” Frida Hök added.

In the authorisation process, normal procedure is that ECHA forms an opinion which they then share with the EU Commission who, in turn, makes a proposal for a decision based on ECHA’s opinion

This proposal is then put forward to the REACH Committee who discusses the issue and votes on it.

However, the European Parliament has the possibility to turn down the proposal from the EU Commission and vote on a resolution to reject it. But this has only been done once before in authorisation cases

The next step will be for the European Parliament to vote on the issue in plenary next week, and then for the REACH Committee to discuss and possibly vote on the case at their next meeting in early December.