Oeko-Tex Tightens PFAS Ban, Releases 2024 Regulation Updates

Oeko-Tex has published its annual updates to its test criteria, certification requirements and limit values.

Though most of the new regulations will come into effect on April 1, after a transition period away from 2023’s regulations, one notable regulation kicked in on Jan. 1. The Swiss chemical management company instituted a new limit value for total fluorine, which will replace the now-outdated limit value for extractable organic fluorine. The limit on total fluorine will be 100 mg/kg.

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Oeko-Tex said in documentation of the change that the decision was made based on its interest in enforcing “a more effective ban on the use of PFAS.”

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are widely known as “forever chemicals.”

Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not yet understand the long-term effect of PFAs on humans or the environment, its research shows that the chemicals “break down very slowly” and that, “exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals.”

The change comes as states begin to crack down on the sale of products with PFAS included. New York and California’s respective legislation banning PFAS from apparel will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Other states, like Washington, Vermont and Massachusetts have also been working toward legally binding bans on PFAS in apparel. Even as states work toward outlawing the chemicals, and brands commit to ensuring they don’t use PFAS in their products, researchers still found high percentages of apparel containing PFAS in 2023.

Oeko-Tex, which works with more than 21,000 manufacturers, brands and retailers in over 100 countries, also released a number of other updates to its regulations. It offers certifications like the Eco Passport, the Leather Standard, the Sustainable Textile and Leather (STeP), the Organic Cotton standard and the Standard 100.

The Oeko-Tex Leather Standard will soon require proof of origin for materials due to the EU’s deforestation-free supply chain legislation, which went into effect in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Oeko-Tex Organic Cotton certification will require tested materials to contain less than five percent genetically modified material, which is down five percentage points from 10 percent in 2023’s regulations. A release from the Tintoria Piana certifier said, “The new limit value still accounts for unavoidable impurities.”

And for those companies looking to be Oeko-Tex STeP certified, the standard will “require certified production facilities to mitigate and prevent the release of microplastics from the manufacturing processes through active risk identification and management.”

STeP companies will be eligible for discounts from the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program (ZDHC) as part of a strategic collaboration with Oeko-Tex. ZHDC works to aid textile and leather companies in reducing the amount of hazardous chemicals they release into water waste.

The slew of new regulations from the testing entity indicate a greater interest from regulatory entities in helping apparel companies comply with active—and incoming—legislation.

Oeko-Tex also noted that it has added several substances of very high concern (SVHC) to its limit value regulations for the Standard 100, Leather Standard, Organic Cotton and Eco Passport certifications, like Bis(4-chlorophenyl) sulphone and 1,4-dioxane, noting that both can “have serious effects on human health and the environment.”