The European Unions REACH Chemicals Committee has voted unanimously to implement a ban on imported textiles and clothing containing nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) above a maximum permitted level of 0.01 % m/m. Currently, manufacturers within the EU cannot produce textiles or clothing containing nonylphenol (NP) or NPEs, a ban introduced in 2004.
NPEs are readily washed out of textiles and clothing, particularly during the first few washes. They the easily degrade to NP in the environment. NP is toxic to aquatic life, and has been listed as a priority hazardous substance (PHS) under the EUs Water Framework Directive (WFD). The ban on manufacture of textiles and clothing containing NP and NPEs has led to a fall in the levels of NP in water bodies, but it has been estimated by the Environment Agency that up to 20 % of the NP levels found in UK water bodies comes from wash-off from imported textiles and clothing.
Analytical measurement of NP and NPEs is usually carried out using high performance liquid chromatography linked to mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS), which can determine these substances accurately down to about 0.002 g/L, well below the WFD limit. However, there are some concerns that laboratories working with the textile industry have experienced problems measuring NPEs at the proposed maximum levels. The development of a certified reference material (CRM) to aid laboratories in this area would be highly beneficial.
Any ban on imports would come into force five years after the date any Regulation is published.