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Toxic and Hazardous Substances in Textiles and Clothing and Their Sources (Part 3)

Flame Retardant Agent

Flame retardant agent is a chemical finishing agent used in textile processing to provide flame retardancy. There are many types of flame retardants, which can be classified into organic and inorganic types by their chemical structures. Organic flame retardants are mainly composed of compounds with phosphorus and bromine as central elements; inorganic flame retardants are mainly composed of metal compounds or halides such as titanium and antimony. Research has shown that certain types of flame retardant agents can have an impact on the immune systems of the environment and the human body, all of which are organic flame retardants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) are also banned because they have a structure that is very similar to that of PCBs.The EU and Japan have imposed restrictions on some harmful flame retardants, including PCBs and PBBs.

Chlorophenols and Ortho-phenylphenol

Chlorophenolic compounds that may be present in textiles include pentachlorophenol (PCP), 2/3/5/6-tetrachlorophenol (TeCP), and ortho-phenylphenol (OPP). PCP is a preservative commonly used in the processing of wood, leather, and textiles. To facilitate the storage of textile semifinished products (such as greige cloth) and finished products, a small amount of preservative is generally added during the production process (mainly in the sizing process), which is commonly used in the storage and transportation of cotton fibers and wool, and is also used as a thickener in printing paste. PCP is highly toxic and can cause bioaccumulation in the human body, which is a threat to human health. The wastewater discharged from washing textiles with pentachlorophenol can also cause pollution to the environment. Substances containing PCP produce highly toxic substances when burned. TeCP and OPP have similar uses in textiles and leather as PCP.

German law prohibits the production and use of PCP, and the limit for the substance in clothing and leather products is 5mg/kg; some countries require that the detection rate of the substance be 0. Textile products treated with antibacterial agents and leather products are susceptible to excessive amounts of PCP.

Organochlorine carriers

Polyester fibers are dyed using the carrier method under normal temperature and pressure. All of the organic chlorine carriers used in this method are toxic substances, so their use has been prohibited in many countries. Ten types of organic chlorine carriers are restricted in existing regulations and relevant standards.

Environmental hormones

Environmental hormones, also known as endocrine disruptors, mainly include insecticides, fungicides, and phthalate plasticizers.

During the growth process of cotton and linen fibers, certain insecticides are often used to resist pest infestation. Residual agricultural and livestock pesticides are often present in certain animal and plant fibers, with varying degrees of toxicity, but can be easily absorbed through the skin, such as Dieldrin, which is suspected of being a carcinogenic insecticide that is easily absorbed through the skin.
Oeko-tex100 (2004 edition) restricts the use of 54 pesticides and 6 plasticizers, and sets limits for their total residues. Japanese regulations limit the use of DTTB (Timiperone) and dinitrophenol.
In textiles made from natural fibers, especially cotton textiles, insecticides are often present.

Volatile Chemicals

Currently, the use of volatile chemicals is mainly controlled by relevant regulations, including nine types of chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, styrene, and ethylene cyclohexene.  

Fabric pH

The human skin surface is generally weakly acidic to prevent the invasion of disease. Therefore, the most beneficial pH value for skin is neutral or weakly acidic.

Oeko-Tex100 sets pH value limits for different categories of textiles and clothing, and China's General Technical Requirements for Safety of Textile Products (GB/T18401-2003) also sets pH value limits for various types of textiles and clothing.

Color fastness

On the surface, it seems that the color fastness of fabrics has nothing to do with the ecological issues of textiles, but the action of biological enzymes in human sweat and saliva can promote the decomposition of dyes, leading to harm to human health.

Oeko-Tex100 also sets limits on color fastness. China's General Technical Requirements for Safety of Textile Products (GB/T18401-2003) also sets color fastness limits for various types of textiles and clothing.

Special Odor (such as musty, foul, fishy, or other odors)

Strong odors indicate that excess chemical agents or harmful ingredients remain in the textile, potentially harmful to health. Therefore, only trace amounts of special odors are allowed in various clothing items. Testing for this indicator is a new item in the textile industry, with basic testing methods found in Oeko-tex200 and the national standard GB18885-2002 Ecological Textile Technical Requirements.

The above banned and limited chemicals are applicable to all textiles, and relevant regulations in various countries have clearly defined the limits for these substances in textiles.

Technical trade barriers have now become the main means of restricting the export of Chinese textiles and clothing. We need to understand the technical requirements of international textile and clothing markets, strive to comply with them, and actively improve product quality to accumulate energy for enterprise development and wait for opportunities in the severe winter.

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