Ensuring the safety of textile products- METI's action regarding voluntary industry standards to self-regulate the use of dyes and pigments that can change into toxic substances -
To prevent some azo dyestuffs that can change into toxic substances from harming human health, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has been requesting the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), which is responsible for the Act on Control of Household Products Containing Harmful Substances, to consider regulating textile products that use such dyestuffs. At the same time, METI has requested the textile industry (Japan Textile Federation, or JTF) to make voluntary efforts to ensure the safety of textile products and have jointly been striving toward that goal.
JTF has already established and implemented voluntary industry standards for ensuring the safety of textile products. These standards were disclosed to the public on March 29, 2012.
METI will widely disseminate these voluntary standards to those concerned and ask them to fully ensure the safety of textile products by adhering to them.
(1) Regulations initiated in other countries
In the wake of a finding by a Dutch national research institute in 1999, the use of some azo dyestuffs that can change into toxic aromatic amines was banned for textile products in some areas, including the European Union (2002), China (2003), and South Korea (2010), in order to reduce health risks.
- [Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment's finding about toxic aromatic amines]
- The risk that some azo dyestuffs (dyes and pigments) may leach from textile products, be decomposed to toxic aromatic amines (potential carcinogenic aromatic amines), get absorbed in the body through the skin, and cause cancer is beyond the negligible level (1 x 10-6 [the risk of one additional cancer in one million people]).
- [Azo dyestuff]
- Azo dyestuff is a common type of coloring matter that accounts for 60-70% of all coloring matters. Approximately 5% (179 types) of all azo dyestuffs are converted into toxic aromatic amines, and these are replaceable by other azo dyestuffs.
(2) Situation in Japan
Although no one has pointed out the risk that azo dyestuffs used for dyeing may affect human health when clothes dyed with them are worn, it has been reported that some azo dyestuffs can be converted into potential carcinogenic aromatic amines.*1
When the use of a textile product dyed with azo dyestuffs that can change into toxic aromatic amines leads to occurrence of a cancer, several processes*2 must take place. There has been no report of such examples. METI's past surveys of purchased samples discovered almost no toxic aromatic amines, indicating that there is only a small possibility at present that azo dyestuffs decomposable into toxic substances may be used in textile products available on the domestic market.
- [Results of past test purchasing surveys (the number of samples with content of toxic aromatic amines which were over the EU standards)]
- Textile products: Seven out of 279 samples (all the detected samples were place mats made in India); none detected in the latest survey of 60 samples.
- Leather products: One out of 185 samples (imported leather).
- * At present, MHLW is also conducting a test purchasing survey of about 30 textile products and about 20 leather products.
*1: The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an institution of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified five aromatic amines as carcinogenic to humans. Europe regulates 22 aromatic amines, including these five.
*2: These include coloring matters leaching from fabric, being decomposed on the skin surface, and getting absorbed from skin.
(3) METI's action for MHLW and the textile industry.
(i) METI has been requesting MHLW, which is responsible for the Act on Control of Household Products Containing Harmful Substances, to consider regulating textile products that use restricted azo dyestuffs and has been exchanging information needed for such consideration with the Ministry. METI has been notified that MHLW has initiated, as part of its program, study and undertake research in preparation for discussing the necessity of regulations under the above law.
(ii) To prevent health hazards ahead of regulation, METI also requested the JTF*3 to ensure the safety of textile products distributed on the domestic market. Accordingly, JTF established voluntary industry standards in 2009. After a preparatory period, their implementation began with last year's autumn and winter clothes, followed by disclosure to the public in March 29.
*3: JTF is an organization consisting of 26 major textile-related institutions, 20 branch offices in major textile-producing regions, and 50 supporting member companies. Its objective is to bring together various entities in the textile industry to cooperate in powerfully implementing measures for coping with critical issues concerning the industry.
2. METI's future steps
- Wide dissemination among the industry
Following the disclosure of the voluntary standards by JTF and the commencement of their full-fledged implementation, the Director-General of the Manufacturing Industries Bureau issued an official notice today to request JTF to (i) strictly enforce the voluntary standards, (ii) widely disseminate them so as to urge those engaged in the textile industry, including non-JTF members, to conform to the standards, and (iii) take action in accordance with the standards. METI will continue its awareness-raising efforts.
- Coordinating with MHLW
METI has been requesting MHLW, which is responsible for the Act on Control of Household Products Containing Harmful Substances, to regulate the textile products using restricted azo dyestuffs. In addition to this, METI will continuously share information obtained through the above dissemination activities with MHLW.
- In the leather industry, voluntary standards have been established by the Japan Leather and Leather Goods Industries Association.
March 30, 2012
Division in Charge
- Textile and Clothing Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau
- Paper Industry, Consumer and Recreational Goods Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau