Chemical compliance in Fashion: how to stave off the risk of APEO and AP in Apparel and Footwear

There are worldwide regulations that prohibit or restrict the use of AP and APEO.

1. AP and APEO and their harmful effects

AP is the abbreviation for alkylphenols, with the main representative substances being octylphenol (OP) and its mixed isomers, as well as nonylphenol (NP) and its mixed isomers. APEO is the abbreviation for alkylphenol polyethylene oxides, with the main representative substances being octylphenol polyethylene oxide (OPEO) and nonylphenol polyethylene oxide (NPEO). Due to their strong toxicity to aquatic organisms and persistent effects, as well as their estrogen-like effects, these substances can harm human reproductive capacity and fetal health. There are worldwide regulations that prohibit or restrict the use of AP and APEO.

2. Uses and risk of AP and APEO in apparel and footwear

2.1 AP

The potential sources of AP in textile and footwear products include the addition of inferior polymer antioxidants, such as PVC stabilizers, during the manufacturing of plastic and rubber materials. This can result in high concentrations of residual AP in the products. Additionally, AP can be formed during the production process due to the thermal decomposition of stabilizers caused by excessive temperatures. AP serves as an intermediate compound in the production of various chemicals. For instance, it is used as a medium for manufacturing APEOs and antioxidants, which are employed for the protection or stabilization of polymers.

2.2 APEO

APEO is widely used in industries such as textiles, leather, footwear, and more for various applications, including detergents, scouring agents (e.g., wool and leather), wetting agents, softeners, spinning lubricants (for yarn and fabrics), emulsifiers/dispersants for dyes and printing, impregnating agents, degreasers for leather, leather coatings, silk degumming agents, dye and pigment formulations, polyester padding, down fillers, interfacing adhesives, and facility cleaning products. If the post-treatment process is not properly managed, there is a possibility of high residual concentrations of APEO in the final products.

3. How to avoid the risk of AP and APEO

To avoid the risk of AP and APEO, the following measures can be taken:

  1. Material suppliers should procure chemical formulations, additives, and related auxiliaries that comply with restrictions on AP and APEO content. Suppliers should be required to provide certificates or testing reports obtained from third-party laboratories to demonstrate compliance with relevant restrictions.

  2. Manufacturers can reduce the usage of AP and APEO auxiliaries in the production process and improve manufacturing techniques by adjusting the processing time and temperature of plastic and rubber materials, minimizing the chances of thermal decomposition of NP stabilizers into NP.

  3. Lower levels of APEO residue in the final products can be removed through extensive washing with water.

  4. Utilizesafer alternatives, ensuring that the selected substitutes comply with relevant regulations and specific restrictions from other brands. For AP, safer alternatives can include calcium/zinc stabilizers that do not contain NP-based antioxidants, which are available in the market. For APEO, alternatives such as fatty alcohol polyethylene ethers, alkyl polyglucosides, N-alkyl glucamide, rosin polyethylene ester, and non-ionic Gemini surfactants can be considered. Some alternative options are listed in the table below:

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