The Swedish Chemicals Agency has submitted, earlier this summer, a report to the Swedish Government in which it proposes amendments to EU Regulation 1007/2011 on textile fibre names and related labelling. The proposal is a result of an assignment given by the Swedish Government to the Agency, in December 2012, to develop proposals and principles for improved EU rules on hazardous substances in textiles.
The main objectives of the Government’s assignment were:
-To present a unified regulation at EU level to effectively target hazardous chemicals in textiles placed on the market in the EU – regardless of the origin of production of the textile products;
-To limit the content of hazardous chemicals in textile products intended for consumer use and, as a starting point, to target substances classified as CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction), endocrine-disrupting, environmentally hazardous, dangerous to the aquatic environment, and substances classified as respiratory and skin-sensitizing;
-To achieve a regulation that is implementable, enforceable and manageable for the concerned parties.
Hong Kong’s textile and clothing exporters may recall that EU Regulation 1007/2011 on textile fibre names and related labelling sets out provisions for the marking and labelling of all textile products which are made available on the EU market. It also introduces a novel provision requiring that non-textile parts of animal origin (e.g., leather) in textile products must contain particular wording on the label (for more details on this Regulation, see: Business Alert-EU, 4 Nov 2011).
After having assessed various regulatory options in view of the above-listed objectives, the Swedish Chemicals Agency concluded in its report that the best regulatory option is to expand EU Regulation 1007/2011 on textile fibre names and related labelling so as to also restrict the chemical content in textiles.
Of particular significance is the fact that the EU Regulation applies to all textile products, and should the Swedish call for introducing chemical restrictions into the Regulation be found acceptable by the European Commission, the effects on economic operators could be particularly far-ranging.
Other options that were considered included regulation through the existing REACH Regulation, the creation of a new textile-specific legislation based on CE-marking criteria, and the introduction of environmental taxes on clothes and textile products.
According to the Agency, an amendment to EU Regulation 1007/2011 would be the most beneficial solution. It would avoid the long and complicated process of creating new legislation. Instead, the current legislation can largely be kept intact while simply expanding the scope of products covered, and adding new provisions by means of which hazardous substances would no longer be allowed in textile products placed on the EU market.
The REACH Regulation, on the other hand (according to the Agency), is not primarily intended for regulation of chemical content in products which are not themselves chemical products and would involve a very labour intensive restrictions procedure.As regards the option of introducing environmental taxation, the Agency had previously indicated that it had been drafting a proposal for a national framework for taxation on consumer products which would contain some specific chemical groups, the first step being the taxation of clothes and shoes.
This option, the Agency noted, could be used not only for clothes but for all types of textiles that are deemed relevant from a hazardous and/or risk perspective, e.g., fire fighters’ clothing or textile products for furniture. However, the Agency has now pointed out that environmental taxes are today only an option at the national level, and that the market players concerned could in any event choose to pay the tax instead of reducing the chemical content in textile products.
This option would therefore not impose strict limits on the use of hazardous chemicals in textiles. It has therefore been disqualified from further assessment within the current assignment. Nonetheless, the Agency stresses that environmental taxation of textiles will remain an option for Sweden.
In its proposal, the Agency has suggested that hazardous chemicals which can be found in finished textile products should be regulated at three different levels, namely: (i) regulation without any exemption; (ii) regulation with limited exemptions; and (iii) procedure for including other substances or groups of substances and for lowering the maximum allowed concentration level.
More specifically, the SCA proposes that textile products must be prohibited from containing substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction, or hazardous to the environment. This prohibition should, according to the proposal, also apply to chemical substances in textile clothing that are classified as respiratory and skin sensitizing. Finally, the SCA proposes to include a list of derogations to be applied on a case-by-case basis, however without further specifying what could be covered by these derogations.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency report will likely prove to be of particular interest to law makers in Brussels. Should this indeed be the case, the European Commission could eventually propose restrictions along the same lines as suggested by the Agency, for application EU-wide.
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