On request of the Dutch food and product safety authority, RIVM has developed a prioritization method for substances used in textile production. This method can be used to identify substances for which it is considered important to assess the risk. Most substances with a high priority are dyes and flame retardants.

Consumers have daily dermal contact with textile articles, through clothing and matrasses for example. There is a concern that textiles contain hazardous substances that pose a risk to human health, such as skin sensitization. The use in textiles is already restricted for some dyes.

European producers and importers of substances are required by the European legislation REACH to register their substance with the European Chemicals Agency. A description of the safe use of substances, including the use in textiles, has to be provided. For ten high-priority substances, RIVM assessed the information available in the registration on consumer exposure.  The available exposure information was not very specific and did not allow a proper risk assessment.

RIVM method for prioritisation

The new RIVM method for prioritisation of substances is based on the REACH registration data on use of the substance and its toxicity. The prioritisation is, amongst others, based on: the presence of the substance in the final textile article, its use during the production process of textiles and the possible health effects? Also, the level of exposure above which health effects cannot be excluded (threshold value) was considered important.

This method identified 788 individual substances used in the production of textiles: 32 substances had the highest priority scores. The available information was too limited to perform a risk assessment.

Exposure assessment

The main shortcoming for estimating the exposure and the risk was the absence of substance-specific data on the presence and release of substances from textiles. A realistic model and substance specific exposure data are required for a proper assessment of the consumer risks of substances in textiles.