European countries voted unanimously to extend the existing ban on nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) to imports because it poses “unacceptable risk” to aquatic wildlife.
The use of NPE in the textile industry has been restricted in the EU for 10 years, but the new measures will also ban the import of goods containing the chemical.
The idea of extending the ban first arose in Sweden after the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) released research in 2013 showing the chemical to be a threat.
NPE is used as a cleaning, dyeing and rinsing agent in the processing of fabrics.
Greenpeace released a study in 2011 that showed high-profile companies such as Adidas, H&M, Lacoste, and Ralph Lauren sold clothing manufactured with NPE. Over 75 percent of tested clothes contained the chemical, at least in small amounts.
Clothing and textile companies have complained that compliance with the ban will be difficult to achieve, as NPE is ubiquitous in the supply chain.
The ban will not impact secondhand or recycled goods, as they are believed to have been washed numerous times, so as to contain negligible amounts of NPE.
New restrictions will go into effect five years after the legislation is adopted by the European Commission, which is expected to happen in the next month.