Footwear and textile clothing: consumers need better protection from the risks of skin allergies and irritation



Cases of skin allergies and irritation related to clothing or footwear are regularly reported to the health authorities. Today ANSES is publishing the results of the expert appraisal it conducted to identify the chemicals likely to be found in these articles and possibly responsible for these cases. Further to this expert appraisal, the Agency is issuing recommendations on how to better protect consumers from the risks of skin allergies and irritation caused by the presence of these substances.

In response to cases of skin allergies and irritation related to clothing and/or shoes reported to the health authorities, the Ministries of Health and the Economy asked ANSES to identify the skin irritant or sensitising chemicals, regulated or non-regulated, liable to be found in these articles. The Ministries also asked ANSES to conduct a review of knowledge on the toxicity of these substances and formulate recommendations regarding manufacture, storage and shipment, as well as on whether or not to limit the use of certain substances.

To carry out this expert appraisal, the Agency conducted a review of the scientific literature, as well as tests on samples of new clothing taken from several points of sale and footwear that had been the subject of customer complaints, in order to investigate the presence of skin irritants or allergenic substances. In total, 20 groups of chemical substances were screened for in clothing and around 50 substances in shoes. 

These analyses were used to adapt the groups of substances to be screened for, and confirmed the presence of nonylphenols, Nonylphenol ethoxylated  and formaldehyde, among others. They also identified substances not routinely tested for that can cause contact dermatitis, such as 1,4-paraphenylenediamine, organotin derivatives and azo dyes.

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