EU action to restrict 33 carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR) substances is a welcome move, but much work remains to protect consumers against harmful chemicals in textiles, says European consumer group Beuc.
In a public statement, Beuc says it is pleased that member states have endorsed the European Commission's proposal to ban the use of the chemicals in clothing, textiles and footwear.
However, Monique Goyens, the organisation's director general says that, while it is "glad that the EU is taking the bull by the horns, and that some harmful substances will disappear from the clothes we wear and the bedsheets we sleep in ... the EU missed an opportunity to protect consumers better."
The statement says more needs to be done to protect consumers against other harmful chemicals in textiles, such as endocrine disruptors or allergens.
It also expresses disappointment with the "limited scope" of the restriction. The Commission initially considered 286 substances, which were narrowed down to 33.
In addition, Beuc says, it should have reduced thresholds further, such as for formaldehyde, "a chemical that is presumed to cause cancer".
Unfortunately, says Ms Goyens, the restriction, while a good start, will still allow some toxic substances at unacceptable levels, in baby and infant clothes for instance.
In the meantime, Ms Goyens recommends consumers seek out ecolabelled products. "The best way to protect consumers is to adopt specific legislation for textiles that would address all the chemicals that may harm health. Until then, ecolabelled products remain the safest alternative for consumers – a standard that industry should put more weight behind," she says.
The label, she says, already restricts the use of all chemicals that may cause cancer, change DNA, or harm reproductive health as well as some allergens and endocrine disruptors.
In March, ahead of the member state vote, eight European trade associations released a joint position paper, saying that the Commission's proposal is a "sensible, pragmatic set of restrictions".
The restriction will apply 24 months after publication in the EU Official Journal. This will follow its scrutiny by the European Parliament and Council. Once in force, clothing and related articles, textiles and footwear containing the listed substances – whether produced within the EU or imported - are not allowed on the EU market.