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BRUSSELS – With an estimated one per cent of EU residents being allergic to chemicals that may be present in their clothing, a new proposal has been submitted to restrict the presence of skin sensitising chemicals in garments. The proposal us currently being evaluated by the European Chemical Agency’s scientific committees, which is calling for public comments by December 2019. The proposal has been submitted by France which has proposed restrictions to the placing on the market of textile, leather, hide and fur articles containing skin sensitising substances.


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Last year, ANSES (the French Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health and Safety) investigated the presence of skin irritating or sensitising chemicals potentially found in footwear and clothing items that had been the subject to customer complaints. The study also reviewed the literature and knowledge on the toxicity of these substances to formulate recommendations for the industry.

After testing 25 new clothing articles and 14 footwear products, the French study uncovered the presence of 20 potential allergens and skin irritants in clothing and 50 substances in footwear items.

Tests confirmed the presence of heavy metals (such as lead and mercury), nonylphenols and formaldehyde, among others. Such substances can cause severe skin burns and eye damage.

They also identified other substances not routinely tested for, such as 1,4-paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which was found in 20 per cent of the textile clothing articles, as well as organotin derivatives and azo dyes, which can all cause contact dermatitis.

PPD is in the sights of the proposed restriction along with another 357 substances identified in the skin irritant, corrosive or sensitising classification. The final figure for restriction may change as a result of the call for evidence and further regulatory steps before implementation. 

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