title: labeling harmless textiles

ecological mood: people are increasingly aware of the relationship between textile production and environmental issues. The media feeds this concern, in particular with regards to topics addressing harmful substances present in many textiles and their effects on human health. Hence, textile and clothing producers are working to design products so that no harmful substances are present in any significant amounts. To achieve this goal, manufacturers can adopt recognised ‘environmentally friendly’ working methods such as chlorine free bleaching techniques, low formaldehyde finishing methods and selecting pesticide and heavy metal free materials. The results of these efforts are safe products, which pose no risk to the consumer.

Now, a question rises: how does a consumer recognise a garment or home-textile, which has been produced with special care, so as to pose no risk to health?

consumers’ tool: to address this topic and offer the consumers a tool to choose environmentally friendly products, the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile Ecology elaborated, in 1992, the ‘Oeko-Tex Standard 100’. It enables the testing of textiles and clothing for their human ecology properties, with the aim of ensuring the human safety aspects of the clothing without compromising fashion and function. A manufacturer whose product meets the requirements set by the standard is licensed to use the registered label ‘Tested for Harmful Substances according to Oeko-Tex Standard 100’ on his product.

safer products: Oeko-Tex 100 evaluates and screens for any harmful substances present within processed textiles intended to come into contact with consumers. The relevant harmful substances are defined together with limiting values, taking into consideration the intended use of the product. Moreover, it does not only take into account the finished goods, but also any associated accessories and ‘grey’ product areas such as yarns and buttons. Since 1999, over 5,000 certificates have been issued every year worldwide and over 4,200 textile and clothing manufacturers throughout the world have been involved in the Oeko-Tex system. This makes the Oeko-Tex the world’s best-known label for textiles tested for harmful substances.

safer production: conscious of the impacts of textile production to the environment, the International Association for Research and Testing developed, in 1995, the ‘Oeko-Tex Standard 1000’. It focuses on production ecology - from fibre production to the make-up of the finished article- and is based on the idea that production processes should be environmentally sound and fulfil suitable criteria such as air quality, effluent waste and noise generation. Manufacturing sites satisfying a strict set of limiting value criteria are licensed to carry the label ‘Environmentally Friendly Manufacturing Site’. A finished product, which fulfills the requirements of the Oeko-Tex 100 and is produced on sites carrying the Oeko-Tex 1000 license, can be labeled ‘Oeko-Tex Standard 100 plus’.

…and after use? The Oeko-Tex scheme does not address the topic of the disposal of a product once it has completed its useful working life-span (‘disposal ecology’). In any case, a large proportion of discarded textile products are reused, recycled or disposed of using approved methods, with only a small proportion being treated as household waste. Additionally, textile products conforming to the Oeko-Tex 100 standard do not pose any environmental threat when treated as household waste.