Textiles must be safe
The safety of textile products is important because many of them remain in prolonged skin contact in everyday use. Textiles are also used by particularly sensitive groups such as babies and children. Textile products include bedding, curtains, rugs, clothes (such as tops, trousers, headwear and gloves) and babies' nappies.
Typical safety problems found in textiles are related to:
- drawstrings and other cords in children's clothes;
- nickel in buttons and snap fasteners;
- formaldehyde in bedding and clothes;
- small parts (decorations etc.) that may come off and that small children may put in their mouths, causing suffocation;
- insufficient product markings in general.
Safety requirements set for textiles
Textiles must meet the general safety requirements set in consumer safety legislation. In other words, they must not pose a risk to consumer health or property (Act on the Consumer Safety, 920/2011).
As well as general consumer safety legislation, textiles are governed by specific legislation and product-group specific safety requirements regarding issues such as the following substances that may be found in them:
- certain azo dyes;
- nickel and phthalates.
Finland's up-to-date legislation can be found in our legislative data service (in Finnish).
The maximum permitted level of formaldehyde in textile products depends on the age of the user and the duration of skin contact. The use of azo dyes that can release certain aromatic amines is restricted in textile and leather products that are in prolonged contact with skin or the oral cavity.
Buttons or snap fasteners that contain nickel must not be used in clothes sold unless coated. Even if coated, the amount of nickel that may be released from buttons and snap fasteners is strictly restricted. The use of certain phthalates in all toys and childcare articles is restricted. The use of some phthalates in toys and childcare articles that can be placed in the mouth by children is also restricted. More information you can find here REACH helpdesk.
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority is competent authority on European Commission's Regulation (EU) (1007/2011) on textile fibre names and related labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile (KSL 15 §, VNa 298/2012).
As well as legislation, detailed safety features and testing methods have been specified for certain textiles in product-group specific standards. Product testing and test findings in compliance with standards can prove the product is safe with respect to the issues covered by the standard. References of some standards are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
In the assessment of product conformity, referenced standards have a higher status than non-referenced ones.
In practice this means that products must be in conformity with referenced standards. Referenced standards regarding textiles include:
- SFS-EN 14682 Safety of children's clothing. Cords and drawstrings in children's clothing. Specification.
- SFS-EN 71 Safety of toys. Part 3. Migration of certain elements (toys such as costumes, tents and soft toys).
References of other, "ordinary" standards are not published in the Official Journal of the European Union, but they can still be used in the assessment of textile conformity. These include:
- SFS-EN 14878 Textiles. Burning behaviour of children's nightwear. Specification.
- SFS-EN 14465 Textiles. Upholstery fabrics. Specification and methods of test.
- SFS-EN 14697 Textiles. Terry towels and terry towel fabrics. Specification and methods of test.
- SFS-EN 13758 Textiles. Solar UV protective properties.
In addition, further specifications on textile markings are given in standards including the following:
- SFS-EN 3758 Textiles. Care labelling code.
- SFS-EN 5236 Textiles care labelling. Written instructions.
- SFS-EN 4144 Textile labels. Specification.
- SFS-EN 4876 Textiles. Specification of fibre content.
- SFS-EN 13402 Size designation of clothes.
Existing standards can be searched for and ordered via the Finnish Standards Association (SFS). Information is also available from the Finnish textiles standardisation association (TEVASTA).
Labelling of textiles
Textiles must come with the information necessary for their safe usage throughout their useful life. This information must be provided in a clear and comprehensible format and, as a rule, in both Finnish and Swedish. The information must be provided on an easy-to-find part of the item.
Textile products sold to consumers must come with information including:
- the product's name in accordance with commercial practice (unless otherwise apparent without opening the sales packaging);
- the manufacturer, its authorised representative or the importer;
- product care instructions either as symbols or written instructions (incl. water wash, bleaching, tumble drying, ironing and dry cleaning);
- fibre content (by percentage listed in the order of predominance).
Care instructions must be woven or printed on fabric labels or directly onto the garment. If the surface area of the packaging is not large enough or otherwise suited for labelling, the information can also be provided on a separate slip or other medium attached to the packaging or consumer product. In such cases the labelling must include instructions to keep the separate slip for further reference.
The requirements for the information that must be provided about textiles are specified in the Act on the Consumer Safety, the Government decree on information to be supplied in respect of consumer goods and services (sections 3 and 4 of Act 613/2004), special provisions (such as the decree on maximum amounts of formaldehyde in certain textile products, 210/1998) and in product-group specific standards.
The entrepreneur is responsible for product safety
Entrepreneurs carry the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of products manufactured, marketed and sold by them. This applies to manufacturers, importers and sellers at the various levels of wholesale and retail trade.
Before making products available for consumers, entrepreneurs must make sure that their products do not present a risk to consumer safety. Product safety must also be ensured with regard to aspects not covered by specific legislation. For example, textiles intended for young children are particularly problematic because of children possibly putting them in their mouths, although this is not specifically mentioned in legislation.
Compliance with textile product safety requirements is monitored by Tukes and Finnish Customs (safety of consumer products imported from non-EEA countries). Monitoring takes place in the form of random inspections and consists of actions including market surveillance projects, responses to issues reported by consumers and monitoring and responding to the market. If necessary, the monitoring authorities can take measures to eliminate safety defects.
What to do if a product is found to be unsafe?
If a textile product is found to be unsafe, the entrepreneur must take the measures necessary to eliminate the safety defects. Depending on the case, such measures may include withdrawal of the product from the market, product recall or informing the monitoring authority about the issue. More information here.