EU Regulation says Farewell to NPE in New Textiles
The European Commission Regulation 2016/26 has added to the Annex VII of the REACH Regulation1 the chemical known as nonylphenolethoxylate (NPE).2 Since February of 2021, products should comply to the restrictions set in this update to the REACH Regulation. The new threshold is strict: it does not allow the presence of the substance over 0.01% of the total product.3
NPE is very commonly used in the textile industry for its multiple desirable properties. It is not in itself a component of the fabric but rather used for the treatment of fabrics, and the resulting fabric(s) contain high amounts of the chemical. Unfortunatley, as a result of washing NPE-based clothing in laundry washing machines, NPE is released into the discharge which directly enters wastewater. As NPE is a highly persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic chemical with endocrine-disrupting properties,4 this polluting impact has devasting negative effects on the environment, aquatic wildlife and ultimately population health through means such as groundwater contamination.
For these reasons and more, the use of NPE must be phased out. This is the reason why the REACH Regulation has set such a strict standard regarding its use, which renders fabric production practically impossible for companies. On the other hand, recycled products do not need to meet this threshold if the recycling process does not use NPE(s). Nevertheless, given this new regulation, industrial companies will need to stop using NPE in treatment phases, and this is a positive step towards a chemical-free textile industry.
- The REACH Regulation is the European Law on chemicals Regulation 1907/2006 December 18th 2006. For more information, please refer to: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/LSU/?uri=CELEX:32006R1907
2. Commission Regulation 2016/26 January 13th 2016: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/DE/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32016R0026&from=EN
3. “Aktualisierung der REACH-Verordnung Chemikalienmanagement im Bündnis“, Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien and: https://www.textilbuendnis.com/know-how/branchen-risiken/chemikalien-und-umweltmanagement/leitfaden/
4. Please refer to: https://echa.europa.eu/substance-information/-/substanceinfo/100.105.533