By November 2021, the European Union (EU) is requiring that clothing, accessories, footwear and other textiles (such as furniture upholstery and bed linens) be essentially free of 33 “CMR” substances, including lead, cadmium, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, formaldehyde, several phthalates, and certain azodyes, aromatic amines, and hydrocarbons, among other substances often found in a variety of dyes, flame retardants, and stain- and water-proofing agents.  The restrictions, adopted on October 10 under Annex XVII of the EU’s REACH legislation, apply to textile products sold in the EU that may come into contact with human skin (or be inhaled or ingested) and aim to reduce exposures to substances identified as carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins (so-called “CMR” substances).

The regulation specifies acceptable de minimis levels for the 33 substances, ranging from as low as 1 mg/kg to 3,000 mg/kg.  Amounts above these levels, whether present intentionally or as an impurity, would be prohibited.

The restrictions do not apply to (a) products made exclusively of natural leather, fur or hide; (b) non-textile fasteners and non-textile decorative attachments; (c) second-hand clothing or other products; (d) carpets, rugs, and other textile floor coverings; or (e) medical devices or personal protective equipment, as well as disposable (i.e., single or limited use) textiles.

While a two year phase-in is provided to allow for manufacturers to conform to the new restrictions, a number of companies reportedly already have reformulated away from the listed substances and adopted (supposedly) less hazardous alternatives or are on track to do so.

The full text of the new EU regulation can be found here:




The REACH Committee of the EU Commission agreed on July 11 to advance a proposal that would restrict the presence of four phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DIBP) in products placed on the market.   The proposed restriction would limit the amount of these common plasticizers, individually or in any combination, to a concentration below 0.1% by weight.

According to the Commission, consumers can be exposed to phthalates through a variety of sources, including ingesting food and dust, placing articles in the mouth, breathing in air and dust indoors, and by dust and articles getting in contact with mucous membranes and skin.  The phthalates previously were identified under REACH as substances of very high concern (SVHC) based on reproductive toxicity and endocrine disrupting effects.

The European Parliament and the Council now have 3 months to review the measure before it goes back to the Commission for final adoption. The restriction will then be published in the EU Official Journal and will apply 18 months after entry into force to products produced both in and outside of the EU.

Thousands of companies that sell chemical products online should pay close attention to a new EU enforcement initiative aimed at the apparent widespread failure to disclose health and safety hazard information to consumers making website purchases.  EU member state enforcement authorities will focus on internet sales of chemical products, according to an announcement regarding the launch of the 8th REACH enforcement project.  While details have yet to be defined, the initiative is expected to emphasize compliance with hazardous chemical restrictions and labeling requirements.  Official launch will be in 2020, with preparation under way through 2019.

The EU action follows a 2017 pilot project that found over 80% of online advertisements for sales of hazardous chemical mixtures — including household cleaners, paints, hobby glues, solvents, bug sprays, motor fluids, garden fertilizers and others products — did not comply with the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulation, including online disclosure requirements.  Substances for which restrictions have been adopted under REACH Annex XVII are expected to be a primary focus.

Similarly, compliance with REACH authorization requirements for hexavalent chromium, and other hazardous chemicals yet to be announced, will be the target of another enforcement initiative to be launched in 2020.  Companies should ensure that their use of “substances of concern” are authorized and abide by any conditions imposed on the use.  REACH also requires users of a chemical subject to authorization to notify ECHA within three months of their first supply of the substance.  A recent EU review found unauthorized hexavalent chromium to be present in a wide range of products.