Press release Oeko-Tex

issued by OEKO-TEX® Association - Zürich

OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 expands to include testing for nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEOs), nonylphenol (NP), and related chemicals

Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APE), including nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEO) and nonylphenols (NP), are used as surfactants in textile production processes, in detergents, industrial cleaners, dispersant or wetting agents, and other industrial chemical categories. Recent independent studies have found residual nonylphenol ethoxylates in environmental samples and textile products from China. While nonylphenol ethoxylates currently are not known to pose direct health hazards for people wearing clothing manufactured with these chemicals, the significant environmental risks associated with this class of chemical are broadly acknowledged. Nonylphenol ethoxylates and nonylphenol do not degrade if released in the environment and can accumulate and contaminate the human food supply chain.

The European Union has regulated the industrial use of nonylphenol ethoxylates and nonylphenol since 2003. The EU’s REACh Directive incorporated these regulations in Annex XVII and limits the amount of nonylphenol ethoxylate and nonylphenol as a substance or component in preparations to 0.1% by mass. The US Environmental Protection Agency has also encouraged voluntary phase out and is considering regulatory actions against use of these surfactants.

The International OEKO-TEX® Association, with its OEKO-TEX® Standard 1000 certification for environmentally-responsible textile production facilities, restricts use of these ecologically harmful surfactants, including octylphenol and octylphenol ethoxylates, as an essential condition for certification. The association’s well known OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certification, which ensures that textile products are tested to be free from harmful levels of more than 300 chemicals believed to be dangerous to human health, has not previously tested for surfactant residuals since they have not been linked directly to health concerns.

However, to increase the scope of textile safety provided by the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 label and to better integrate with its OEKO-TEX® Standard 1000 production facility certification, the OEKO-TEX® Association has announced that it will now include tests for nonylphenol, nonylphenol(1-9) ethoxylates, octylphenol and octylphenol(1-2) ethoxylates in its requirements for OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certification. Beginning January 2012, the new testing parameters and limit values will be added to the OEKO-TEX® criteria catalogue and certificate holders will be expected to comply with these new requirements by April 1, 2013.

The newly proposed limit values for this class of chemicals are:

  • nonylphenol: 100 ppm
  • octylphenol: 100 ppm
  • total nonylphenol(1-9) ethoxylates: 1000 ppm
  • total octylphenol(1-2) ethoxylates: 1000 ppm

Companies that have existing OEKO-TEX® Standard 1000 certification already meet these requirements.

The new requirements for OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certification will have a positive impact on further reducing the use of these surfactants in the textile industry. With more than 10,000 certificates issued per year to more than 9,500 companies in 90 countries, the effect on the global textile supply chain will be substantial. To help make an even more immediate contribution, the OEKO-TEX® Association, which conducts random retail audits of certified products as part of its certification process, will begin testing for alkylphenol ethoxylates, alerting certificate holders of concerns, and assisting those companies with identifying and eliminating the sources within their production supply chain. Also beginning immediately, OEKO-TEX® will begin sharing alkylphenol ethoxylate elimination information with certificate holders during regularly scheduled tri-annual audits.