Fretwork | Republish of International Dyer article of 2013
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Republish of International Dyer article of 2013

Republish of International Dyer article of 2013

This article first appeared in the International Dyer Edition 4 of 2013.

The recent EACOM Inquiry into “Toxic substances in Consumer Products” spent some time on chemicals and the way they are handled and they seem a little selective in what they published in the report. The article (somewhat surprisingly) still seems relevant and – I believe – correct. It seemed useful to offer this as a reminder.

This is from my stored text and not necessarily completely represents what was published

 

DecaBDE was, as expected, declared a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) on 19th December 2012 and has been added to the list of candidates for authorisation within the REACH process.

The decision has brought uncertainty to those in the Textile Industry who have used this substance over many years. It is perhaps of interest to review some of the difficulties and highlight some critical areas of the operation of this process with particular regard to the position of textile processors.

My sources of reference are personal contacts in the Industry and the “Nutshell Guidance” documents issued by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA):

http://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/13632/nutshell_guidance_articles2_en.pdf

http://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/13632/articles_en.pdf

I am working from the belief that DecaBDE is used in high volume (1000’s of tonnes per year) and at high add-on to textiles (an upholstery textile at 300 gsm will probably contain between 17 and 35 gsm of DecaBDE).

Mistakes have been made and misunderstanding has occurred. It would be invidious to describe them here (as those involved could perhaps recognise themselves), but there is one mistake that I can speak about: I confused the “within 6 months requirements” between Article 7.2 and Article 33 processes in my last words on this subject and in a subsequent FRETWORK newsletter. In my defence I believe that ECHA have taken a very balanced approach to the way they offer guidance but have not made the distinction between the processes clear and it is easy to confuse one with another. I know I was not alone in my confusion.

There are 3 processes that require information to be passed both up and down the supply chain:

  • ARTICLE 7.2 – INFORM ECHA.

This part is about ensuring that ECHA knows about which USES the substance has. A Use must be registered with ECHA within 6 months of the substance being entered into the authorisation process.

If it is already in the dossier for the substance submitted to ECHA you need do nothing. The uses are fairly simple, generic descriptors of processes. The calculations of annual consumption and limiting values is therefore to be seen as a certain amount of “complication” getting in the way of a clear view of what is needed for an industrial user of the substance. ECHA devotes a lot of time in the Nutshell Guidance to this subject – all of which is (virtually) irrelevant to a textile processor.

There is one aspect of this that intrigues: A “new” Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet prepared according to Commission Regulation (EU) No 453/2010 that you may have received as a “suitable method of informing” you that a formulation contains an SVHC has, in item 1.2, details of relevant identified uses and can be used to describe uses “advised against” for the preparation or product. I have not yet been able to confirm that there is necessarily a direct link between this information and the registration of a use in the dossier submitted to ECHA. That’s a puzzle!

 

  • ARTICLE 33 – INFORM CONSUMERS.

This is the requirement that consumers have a right to know about the presence of the substance in an article but if you have no direct sales to consumers it’s not relevant.

 

  • ARTICLE 33 – INFORM THE SUPPLY CHAIN.

This is a requirement to inform the “Actors” in the supply chain and provide sufficient information to allow safe usage. This should happen “directly” the substance is identified as an SVHC but would necessarily rely on your supplier informing you. Some companies have written in a letter format to customers to inform them that what they supply contains an SVHC. What these Downstream Users make of that and do subsequently remains to be seen. What happens when we have different supply chains [coater>furniture maker>retailer OR coater>merchant>upholstered component maker>furniture stockist>distributor] remains to be seen. Some have confirmed the need to pass the word on and some have referred to the ECHA web site as a source of more information (without making any emphasis to “pass the word on”). The Nutshell Guidance seems to suggest that Industry must work out the best way of informing downstream users for itself. Inclusion of the information in a material safety data sheet is not normal practice for textiles and this is one proposed method of passing on information.

 

It would be quite straightforward if all your flame retardant coatings contain DecaBDE but 2 particularly textile complications are important.

 

  1. If your industrial product is a simple item with (say) 2 qualities (heavy and Light) and 2 colours (Black and White) then it’s easy to deal with 4 products but a textile coater may have hundreds of customers and each will have more than one range of fabrics and then each with several colourways. One correspondent suggested over 40,000 different products were in his catalogue on this basis.
  2. It becomes a legal requirement to declare the presence of the SVHC. Fibre content and suitable cleansing procedures are normal pieces of information to attach to any textile product sold on, but required information on an SVHC “to allow safe handling” has not been seen yet, I believe. I have a nagging concern though that a Legal requirement to confirm the presence – or absence – of DecaBDE could become another aspect of a legal requirement in the Product Description and hence fall under Consumer Protection Legislation? I’m a Dyer not a Lawyer but the thought does occur.

Some comment on this situation is necessary:

The levels of application of flame retardants will generally cause the 0.1% maximum notification level of the amount of a substance in an article of furniture to be exceeded. If you have a borderline situation and you factor in the scale of articles you must cover then it does suggest that it is better to ignore the threshold levels and simply go for a declaration that the substance is there. Remember that each furniture producer will have his range of articles to act as a multiplier to the range of fabrics already described.

There are aspects that in particular attach to DecaBDE. The SVHC listing is based on long term degradation risks and no changes to the risks identified in any MSDS other than confirming the SVHC status would appear to be required. In any case no exposure scenario was created for DecaBDE through the Risk Assessment process or the REACH dossier submission because there were no risks identified at that time.

This means that informing downstream users “to allow safe usage” is not a requirement because you have nothing to say. I will not at this point join in a debate on the merits or otherwise of the SVHC judgement on DecaBDE from the Member States Committee. The lack of a clearly defined risk does not make the task of expecting downstream users to be more readily engaged in the process any easier.

So you must “as a minimum” confirm the name of the substance and that name will be the one that appears in the authorisation candidate’s list: “bis-Pentabromodiphenyl ether”. Two other names appear in brackets in the list for good measure but not the commonly used “Deca”. Of course you could add the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number to be precise but you have to question the usefulness of giving such (obtuse) information to a non-chemist.

You might question whether or not anyone who is not amongst the category of “industrial or professional users and distributors” and does not understand CAS numbers should be getting involved with chemicals at all and as for determining what is safe usage……not the usual daily work of an upholstery manufacturer I would suggest.

It was made clear to FRETWORK at a meeting with the UK REACH Competent Authority that this process is designed to deter use of the substance. Substitution is seen as an important part of the process and it is clear that a lot of work is going on with the evaluation of new substances to do the same job. It is clear also that the circumstances offer considerable potential for distortions in the market place i.e. prices and costs may rise and fall. The SVHC process could be described as having a strong destabilising effect on the existing market.

Cost is of course a critical issue and ECHA go to some trouble to warn of the potential dangers of using analysis to determine the presence or absence of particular substances in several parts of the Nutshell Guidance. I interpret the disclosure requirements as being based on the need to avoid requiring sampling and analysis. I am informed that identification of DecaBDE is expensive because of its complex chemistry. There are reports of demands for testing to confirm or deny the presence of Deca in products. CEN has at this time work projects on the way to define suitable methods of analysis of such restricted substances in textiles and fix them in National Standards.

We live in a World where the contents of “Articles” such as the furniture we sit upon or the food we eat are considered on a “right to know basis”. The fact that we may now declare that an article does contain something or even does not contain something and is a labelling requirement could place this whole process into a different sphere of regulation and legal responsibility. It will certainly be interesting to see how it develops.

At FRETWORK we remain pleased to hear of your own experiences or problems you have identified. We cannot say we will solve your problems but at least we will seek to ensure they are discussed by the people and organisations they affect.”

Peter Wragg
Peter Wragg
pjw@fretwork.org.uk
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