List of Restricted Substances for Textile and Clothing Industry

List of Restricted Substances for Textile and Clothing Industry

Shubham Anil Jain
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
Bangalore, India


Currently, as the fashion industry has moved to adapt more transparency and reduce its environmental footprint, it should handle the chemicals in clothing that are making fashion toxic and harmful. As consumers, all well known with the health benefits of avoiding GM foods, opting for organic wherever possible as well as natural beauty and cleaning products. It is calculated that over 8000 synthetic chemicals are used in the garment manufacturing process; this includes substances like carcinogens and hormone disruptors. This list also includes materials such as flame retardants, AZO dyes, chromium and formaldehydes. Because of this, consumers can be exposed to hazardous chemicals in textiles through skin contact, or inhalation or unintentional ingestion of dust released from the materials. The most vulnerable to exposure from these substances are often children and pregnant women, who may experience more adverse health effects.

List of Restricted Substances for Clothing

List of Restricted Substances for Textile and Apparel Industry:
List of hazardous chemicals and restricted substances for clothing are given below.

1. Nickel:
One should always pay attention that, whatever components used for buyer must be nickel free. Nickel is an allergenic material by nature can cause contact dermatitis and suspected to be carcinogenic. It is a silver white metal that is added to or plated on other metals to improve the hardness of alloys and corrosion resistance properties, particularly associated with a bright metal finish. These are often present in various types of garment accessories such as zips, buttons and rivets as well as earrings, bracelets, zippers, watches, studs, rivets, belt buckles etc.

2. Chlorinated Organic Dye Carriers:
These substances can affect the nervous system and might have an irritating effect particularly on skin, mucous membranes and are therefore prohibited in buyer products. Dye carriers can be based on trichloro benzene, biphenyl phenol, orthophenyl phenol & halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons. Used as carriers in the dyeing process of polyester or wool / polyester fibers. They can dye at boil to cut costs.

To avoid this high temperature dyeing of polyester by aqueous or continuous dyeing techniques can be used. Use only permitted dyestuffs. Substitute chlorinated carriers with toxicologically acceptable carriers such as Carboxylic Acid Esters.

3. Formaldehyde:
Basically, it is a volatile organic compound that is found in dyeing and printing for fixation (e.g. easy care finish), preservation of dyes and prints, tanned leather, interlinings, bonded fabrics and for anti-shrinking treatments. But, when it is used in large quantity, it can cause allergy, skin and respiratory tract irritations and is a suspected carcinogen. It is present in 2 forms: free on the surface for determining the level of formaldehyde present in the fabric or garment to give an indication on the risk of handling the product, or released in a vapor form to determine the level of Formaldehyde given off by the fabric into the atmosphere to give an indication as to the risk of respiratory problems.

To avoid this, one can use pure finishes where it is possible. In the applications such as flock or applique then formaldehyde containing agents should be avoided. Where this is not possible the above standards must apply to be included as part of (and not separate from) the whole sample test result (i.e. base material plus application together must not exceed above values

4. Phthalates:
When it comes to this material, all products supplied to or for buyer orders must be phthalate free. Phthalates are basically plasticisers that are used to soften PVC, which can be used in computers, paints, printing inks, adhesives, in plastisol prints, cosmetics, footwear, stationary, clothing, accessories, toys and many packaging operations. Phthalates can migrate into the body, if they come into contact with saliva/sweat and are suspected to be an endocrine disruptor and carcinogens and are known to disturb the endocrine system

5. Cadmium:
All products supplied to or for buyer orders must be cadmium free. Cadmium is commonly used in the industry as pigment, dye, paint stabilizer and plating for functional and decorative purposes. Therefore it may be found in a variety of products including packaging, plastics, paint, plastisol printed areas, PVC, PU, coated or laminated fabrics, toys, batteries, furniture, apparel and clothing accessories, such as buttons, zips etc.

6. AZO dyes:
Azo dyes are one of the most commonly used in textile and clothing manufacturing. They are most highly concentrated in black and brown colors and contain concentrations of p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical that can cause skin allergies and dermatitis. Some dyes use pigments that contain mercury which can be harmful for the skin and damage organs.

7. Metals:
Although metals are not harmful, when not correctly managed or traced throughout the supply chain or melted with unmonitored substances, they can prove very dangerous. Unrefined metal processes can sometimes accidentally melt radioactive sources at the same time. ASOS experienced this problem when a line of metal studded belts were identified as radioactive in 2013.

Various Regulations for Chemicals in the Textile and Fashion Industry:
Currently, the fashion industry lacks agreed international regulations on what chemical substances are deemed to be ‘safe’ across the value chain.  This is especially problematic because clothes can travel across multiple continents at any stage of the production process.

Here are three regulations to be aware of when it comes to chemicals in clothing:

1. The United Nations Basel Convention Treaty:
When it is concerned, this was signed in 1989 and restricts the movement of hazardous waste between various nations. It was created to minimize the overall volume of toxicity of waste generated for environmental management purposes.

2. The Manufactures Restricted Substance List (MRSL):
This list includes materials that are banned in the textile and fashion process which includes leather, rubber, foam, adhesives and trim parts in textiles, apparel and footwear. It is important because it does not just restrict substances in the finished good but throughout the supply chain. The list was structured by the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC).

3. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals):
Reach was originated in 2006 and is a regulation of the European Union that was devised to regulate chemical substances’ effects on society and the environment. Outside of regulation, Greenpeace launched their ‘Detox My Fashion’ campaign in 2011 to call for 80 leading fashion brands and suppliers to reduce their toxic impact on the environment.

It is observed that fast fashion’s production of toxic clothing may be the cause of underlying health issues which some people may not be aware of. When the toxic wastelands are not cleaned up, future generations will have to deal with the consequences and adverse effects. It is time for consumers to become more conscious of the harmful effects of toxic clothing on the environment as well as on themselves. As of 2018, it is estimated that, 80 companies including Adidas, H & M and Mango have worked to reduce the volume of chemicals used in their production.


  1. Fast Fashion’s Toxic Clothing And How To Avoid It,
  2. Toxic Fashion: What Chemicals Are Used In Clothing?
  3. The toxic chemicals in our clothes – lead, chromium, PFAS, phthalates – and the harm they do us, our children and the workers who make them
  4. Substances we don’t want in our clothes,
  5. Restricted Substances List for Apparel Industries

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