Restricted Substances List (RSL) Used in Textiles and Apparels

List of Restricted Substances (RSL) Used in Textiles and Apparels
Md. Noor Hossain
B.Sc Engg.(Textile): BUTex, MBA: DU;
Sr. Merchandiser: UTAH Group

The Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation places controls on the supply and use of certain chemical substances on their own, in preparations or mixtures or in articles (finished products). These controls apply to substances that can be particularly harmful to human health or the environment. Consumer awareness to purchase safe and eco-friendly products is on rising trend. Adequate knowledge of restricted/harmful substances helps apparel industry to understand complex product safety and chemical management requirements in order to address consumer preferences in the niche market. The common approach of handling the things risk free and easily is to set a Restricted Substances List (RSL) by the retailers. To keep our global textile and apparel industry competitive and compliant in the marketplace, restricted substances list provides clear and concise information on the newest developments in global product safety standards covering chemicals and other substances whose presence in a product is restricted through a government regulation or law to ensure that they are environmentally safe.
list of RSL in Textiles and Apparels
Fig: Determination of RSL in Textiles and Apparels
Under EU REACH regulation, substances that are one of the following can be regarded as substance of very high concern (SVHC):
  • Carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction
  • Persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic
  • Very persistent and bio-accumulative
  • Seriously and/or irreversibly damaging the environment or human health
  • Substances damaging the hormone system.
Restricted Substances List (RSL) Used in Textiles and Apparels Industry:
1. Phthalates:
Phthalates is the name of a group of chemical substances based on phthalic acid. Phthalates are a group of plasticizers with softening and elastic effects. They are widely used in apparels in Softener, print paste especially rubber print and plastisol print, Synthetic fiber and its blends, Polyester button, polyurethane and polyvinylchloride coating.

Studies have shown that men’s sperm reduction over the past few decades may be related to the use of phthalates as softeners. Experts also found phthalates contained in soft plastic toys and children’s products may be placed in the mouth of a child. However, placing long enough in the mouth will result in phthalates dissolution in excess of safety standards, which endangers children’s liver and kidneys.

Some phthalates have been shown to have endocrine-disrupting effects which can interfere with endocrine or hormone system in mammals. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

Three phthalates Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and Benzylbutyl phthalate (BBP) are classified by the EU REACH as harmful and restricted if the contents exceed the limit 0.1% or 1000 PPM.

2. Formaldehyde:
Formaldehyde is a commonly used chemical compound that exists in various forms and at room temperature, is a colorless, distinctive, strong and even pungent smelling, flammable and gaseous substance.

Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound that:

  • is readily soluble in water
  • breaks down rapidly
  • is produced and metabolized in the human body
  • does not accumulate in the human body or environment
Formaldehyde can be found in dyeing and printing for fixation or preservation of dyes and prints. It is frequently used as an anti-creasing and anti-shrinking agent used for wrinkle free treatment and it can also be found in permanent press, artificially stiffened fabric and Stain resistance substances. It is also used to keep garments looking new and fresh while in transit and to retard mildew growth. They are:
  • Fixing agents for direct and reactive dyes in cellulose fibers
  • Anti-wrinkle and anti-shrinking resins used in the finishing processes
  • Resins used in permanent wrinkles in textile articles made of cellulose fibers, mainly in denim product.
  • Heat transfer adhesives used as binders in dye printing.
  • Heat transfer adhesives used in several types of printing processes, such as flock and foil, among others.
  • Reducing agent present in printing
  • Resins and binding agents in some special finishes and coatings.
  • Products for tanning and softening of leather.
  • Anti-microbial agents in pastes used in water-based printing
Formaldehyde can cause allergy, irritation and eczema, asthma, contact dermatitis, irritation of the nose, eyes, and other adverse effects like headaches, depression, insomnia and it is a suspected carcinogen. It can be present in two forms: free on the surface of fabrics, or released in a vapor form from fabrics.

It is forbidden to use formaldehyde-based products to produce fabrics for the following garments:

Children wear (0–3 years), Underwear and Nightwear - Free Formaldehyde is limited to <20ppm in these garments. All other products are limited to <75ppm free formaldehyde.

3. AZO Dye:
AZO dyes are the name of the group of synthetic dyestuffs based on nitrogen that are often used in textile industry. Some AZO dyestuffs may separate under certain conditions to produce carcinogenic and allergenic aromatic amines.

The EU AZO Colorants Directive sets out that Azo dyes which may release one or more of the 22 aromatic amines in detectable concentrations, above 30 ppm in the finished articles or in the dyed components may not be used in textile articles which may come into direct and prolonged contact with the human skin or oral cavity.

4. Dimethyl Fumarate (DMF):
Dimethyl fumarate (DMF) is commonly used as an anti-fungal agent to kill molds that may cause clothing to deteriorate during storage and wearing. It evaporates and impregnates the product, protecting it from molds. However, it can then also affect consumers who are in contact with the products.

DMF can penetrate through the clothes onto skin where it can cause painful skin contact dermatitis, including itching, irritation, redness, and burns; in some cases, acute respiratory troubles.

Products containing DMF exceeding the limits of 0.1 PPM are prohibited from being placed or made available on the market.

5. Alkylphenols (APs) and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APEOs):
Alkylphenol Ethoxylates and Alkylphenols are considered to be harmful to the environment and possible endocrine disrupters. EC is forced to limit concentrations to 0.1% in its products. The most common usage is in detergent products. The second most common use is in textile processing where it is used in various textiles auxiliaries including wetting agents and in the manufacture of water based pigment pastes to improve pigment dispersion.

6. Phenols: Pentachlorophenol (PCP) & Tetrachlorophenol (TeCP):
PCP (Pentachlorophenol), TeCP (Tetrachlorophenol) it’s salts and esters are forbidden in the manufacturing of Apparel. They are used as pesticides/fungicides to prevent mold spot (caused by fungi). Chlorinated phenols are applied directly onto natural fibres, their blends and leather. Both PCP and TeCP are very toxic and are regarded as cancer-inducing substances

7. Tributyltin (TBT) & Dibutyltin (DBT):
Tributyltin (TBT) is an organotin compound used for anti-microbial finishing. High concentrations are considered toxic. This substance can be taken up via the skin and may affect the nervous system. In the textile industry, organotin compounds have been used for preventing the bacterial degradation of sweat and the corresponding unpleasant odour of socks, shoes and sports clothes.

TBT levels must be below 0.5ppm for Babywear and 1.0ppm for all other apparel. Dibutyltin (DBT) is also an organotin compound with various applications, such as an intermediate for stabilisers of polyvinyl chloride, a catalyst for electrode position paints, a catalyst for various types of polyurethanes and as a catalyst for esterification

8. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs):
Chlorinated organic carriers such as polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs) and polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs) are mainly used as pesticides but also as softeners, carriers and flame retardants. They are large, stable molecules that can easily accumulate in organisms and in the environment. They can affect the liver, hormone, immune and nervous systems. They must not present in garments.

9. Arylamines:
Arylamines are chemical substances, harmful for human health, that can be part of the structure of some dyes –Azo Dyes– and which, under certain conditions, can be released from them and absorbed by the human body through the action of sweat

Acceptable limits: maximum 20 PPM

10. Perfluorooctane Sulfonates (PFOS) & Perfluorooctanoic acid ( PFOA):
Perfluorooctane Sulfonates (PFOS) is a fully fluorinated anion, are surfactants widely used as the surface acting agent in textile wet processing. It is also used for its waterproofing oil and stain resistance properties. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts are suspected to have a similar risk profile to PFOS. Maximum 1 μg/m2 is permissible for textile products.

11. Heavy Metals:

A. Nickel
Nickel is now the most frequent cause of contact allergy which may found in garments accessories like Zipper, Hook, Stud, Poppers, Sank Button, Snap Button, Rivet etc. It is no longer permitted to sell articles with nickel-containing metal parts which have direct and prolonged skin contact. Metal components must be tested to ensure that they are nickel-free – that is, have no more than 0.01% Nickel. The ‘lack of nickel’ has to be guaranteed for 2 years and has to remain below 0.5μg/cm2 surface/week (migration)

B. Chromium
Chromium compounds are classified as carcinogenic. So it must not be present in apparels.

C. Cadmium
A limit of 1 ppm is permissible in Cadmium and its combination which can be found in paints, plastisol prints, PVC and PU fabrics.

D. Lead
Lead is a “heavy metal” that is used as: metal; alloy for the production of accessories; pigment. Lead can be found in a great variety of textile and leather/fur products, such as: accessories made from metals or alloys, some components of a variety of chemicals used in pigments. Limits: Maximum 30 ppm is permissible for Lead in non-fabric component (zippers, drawstrings, snaps, buttons, among others)

E. Mercury
Mercury is a ‘heavy metal’ that can be found in the solid, liquid or gas states (in organic or inorganic compounds). Mercury can be found in textile and leather/fur products in general. Contamination occurs during the production of sodium hydroxide and/or sodium chloride using the ‘Mercury cell process’. Contamination during the extrusion of polymers where it is used as a preservative. Therefore contaminate with water during the wet processing of textiles.

Limits: No detection is acceptable in textiles in direct and prolonged contact with the skin.

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Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant, entrepreneur, blogger and researcher on online business promotion. He is working as a consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

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