The “Invisible Threat” in Footwear-DMFA

Have you ever paused to consider the potential secrets behind those shiny, fashionable shoes you wear?
The "Invisible Threat" in Footwear

DMFA, a colorless liquid with a distinct fishy odor, plays a crucial role in traditional PU polyurethane production due to its excellent solubility. However, when this solvent isn’t effectively removed in the later stages of manufacturing, it can potentially linger in the final footwear and apparel products, posing an invisible threat to health. Beyond PU materials, DMFA is widely used in coatings, adhesives, and glues, among other footwear and apparel accessories, making its residue a significant concern.

Strict Limits Imposed by the EU

Recognizing the potential hazards of DMFA, the EU’s REACH regulation in Annex XVII categorizes it as a Category 1B substance for reproductive toxicity and sets strict upper limits for DMFA content in footwear and apparel products—not exceeding 3000 mg/kg. This regulation aims to protect consumers from potential reproductive system impacts, as well as irritation to the eyes and skin, and potential long-term effects such as dermatitis, liver damage, and digestive system issues.

International Brands Respond with Stringent Standards

In response, many international renowned brands go beyond minimum regulatory requirements, taking proactive measures. Industry organizations such as the German Footwear and Leather Goods Safety Association (CADS) and the Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management Working Group (AFIRM) have included DMFA in their 2024 Restricted Substance Lists (RSL), setting even stricter permissible levels for PU synthetic leather, PU foam, and related PU and TPU materials at 50, 100, and 500 mg/kg, significantly lower than EU standards. This demonstrates the industry’s heightened responsibility towards consumer health and safety.

Strategies for Manufacturers

Faced with such stringent regulatory environments, footwear and apparel manufacturers must focus on supply chain management, enhancing screening and monitoring of raw materials. This is particularly critical for PU synthetic leather, PU foam, all PU and TPU materials, as well as various adhesives, glues, and coatings, to control DMFA content. Adopting environmentally friendly water-based PU production processes is key to transitioning and upgrading manufacturing practices.

Simultaneously, companies should continually optimize production processes, establish robust quality management systems, and ensure every step from sourcing to final product meets or exceeds international safety standards. This isn’t just compliance with laws and regulations but a commitment to corporate social responsibility.

PFI's Solution

Established in Germany in 1956 and a member of CADS, PFI maintains a close collaboration with the German Footwear and Leather Goods Industry Federation (HDS/L), providing chemical testing services for businesses. PFI also conducts PUR project audits for European brands and buyers, helping companies produce high-quality synthetic PU leather under safe, healthy working conditions and environmental protection.

In this era of transparency, consumer demands for product safety are rising. Any potential health risks could become a litmus test for brand trustworthiness. PFI Fareast looks forward to building a bridge of consumer trust with you.

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