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Sustainable chemistry in textile processing is the need of hour

Fashion is part of our life. Fashion does not complete without color. Color means the use of chemicals. Do we know how much chemicals are used in textile processing to ensure our fashion? Are all chemicals safe for human health and the environment? What is the possible hazard in current chemicals used in textile processing industries? There are lots of questions in front of us.

Modern textile industries are typical chemical processing industries where 1500 complex chemical formulation are used. 9.3 million ton per year chemicals are used for global textile production. Nearly 1/4 chemicals produced worldwide used directly or indirectly for textile production. We do not know the impact on human health for 80% of these substances……! There are > 800 substances used today in textile products which are known to be harmful to human health or the environment.

More than 80% of the export revenue of our total economy is coming from textiles. We can see our fast-growing development. At the same time, we can see how we are suffering from rare diseases like cancer, birth defect and the inability of reproduction as well as how we are destroying our environments like water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution and life in water bodies.



Figure 1: Environmental pollution in industrial area.

We are using chemicals in almost every step of textile processing. So, it is a very crucial time to identify what are the chemical using in a different stage of textile processing and what are the hazardous risk on it.

Chemicals-used-textile- manufacturing
Figure 2: Chemicals that are being used in a different stage of textile processing.

A research found that many chemicals used in textile processing are carcinogenic, mutagenic, persistent, bio accumulative and toxic to reproduction.

Chemical group Major area of use Purpose of use/application Harmful effect
AP/APEOs Pretreatment, washing and finishing. Wetting, detergency, emulsification Endocrine disruptor, aquatic toxicity
Chlorophenols Finishing Preservatives, pesticides CMR (Carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction)
Banned amines from azo dyes Dyeing and printing Disperse, direct, acid, basic, reactive dyes Bladder cancer
Dyes- carcinogenic Dyeing and printing Direct, basic, disperse dyes Cancer
Disperse dyes -sensitizing Dyeing and printing Disperse dyes Skin sensitization/allergy
Heavy metals Plastic processing, dyeing and printing/coating Dyes and pigments, caustic Toxic to reproduction, carcinogenic
Organotins Finishing PVC, PU coatings Mutagenic
PAHs Printing, heat stabilizer, etc. Pigment black, dispersing agents CMR
PFCs Finishing Anti-dart, oil and water repellants vPvB, thyroid,
Phthalates Printing, soft plastic processing. Plasticizers, leveling agents CMR, endocrine disruptors
Phthalates Printing, soft plastic processing. Plasticizers, leveling agents CMR, endocrine disruptors

Sustainable chemistry in textile processing

Sustainable chemistry in textile processing must have an assurance of safe human health and environment with the reduction of water consumption, chemical consumption, energy consumption, air/water/soil pollution.

Sustainable chemistry can play a vital role in sustainable development in textile processing avoiding hazardous chemicals. A good chemical management system can ensure sustainable chemistry in the textile processing industries.

As of now, ZDHC Foundation (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) has a holistic solution to upgrade the running industry with a safer chemical which can ensure safe product as well as safe environment discharging zero hazardous chemicals.

Current modern ETP (Effluent treatment plant) can also ensure zero hazardous chemicals discharge but it will be the most expensive way than any other alternative. So, focus on the input chemical is the most effective way for sustainable chemistry in the textile industry. If we can identify non-compliant chemicals, we can easily replace with a safer alternative where there is no intentional use of the hazardous substance.

The research found that current safer alternative chemicals require less amount to fulfill the same purpose of textile processing which will decrease the chemical load in ETP. Less chemical load in ETP will be cost-effective to run the ETP properly which can also help the industry to move toward ZLD (Zero Liquid Discharge).

Now our main concern is hazardous chemicals, but the scarcity of groundwater will be another big concern in the very near future in Bangladesh. We need chemicals with effectively high performing ingredients so that residual chemicals will be less for washing out.

Manufacturing restricted substance list or MRSL is the first step of safe chemicals. First, we need to have a comprehensive MRSL to select safe chemicals. MRSL compliant chemical means there is no intentional use of the hazardous substance in the chemical formulation level. Hazardous chemical substances are based on the chemical list in different regulations like REACh, POPs, CPSIA, CA65, GB, etc.


MRSL compliance chemical can be identified through MSDS review, testing and certification of chemicals. There are so many organizations that can provide an MRSL compliance certificate but the ZDHC Foundation has some guidelines and approval process to become qualified chemical testing and certification body. ZDHC Foundation has also designed a chemical gateway where the industry can find required MRSL compliant chemicals. They can also easily download authentic MRSL compliance certificates with different grading of chemicals.

The chemical management system is an essential requirement to ensure sustainable chemistry in the textile industry. A good chemical management system must focus on below major components in three areas that are input chemical, process and output.

Input area

Chemical management team: Chemical management should not be the responsibility of one single person. There must be a team with people from product quality, production, procurement, ETP and EHS. EHS will oversee the overall performance of the chemical management team. The product quality manager will select the required MRSL compliant chemical, the procurement team will ensure the purchase of selected chemical with a relevant compliance certificate. The production manager will ensure the use of the right chemical for the selected product.

Internal purchasing policy: There must be a well-defined purchase policy for any organization with a qualified purchase team. Purchasing policy should also have a declaration about the purchase of safe chemical which will not have any adverse effect on human health and environment. The purchasing team will purchase MRSL compliant chemicals only which are selected by the chemical management team. The purchasing team will ensure the right selection of the chemical supplier. They will also ensure to receive chemicals with an MRSL compliance certificate as well as a written agreement for the action of any noncompliance after production.

Documentation permits and verification: There are so many license/legal documents are required to run industry in the country as well as the need to ensure environmental requirements. So an industry should have a responsible person/team to follow up legal documents to operate as well as different regulations. They will also follow up updates on legal requirements and regulations. They will inform the update requirement of regulations to the respective team for necessary action and will ensure the implementation of update requirements.

MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet): MSDS/SDS is a very important part of chemical management. It helps to know about chemicals. Every chemical must have MSDS with 16 mandatory information like chemical name, CAS number, hazardous information, PPE (personal protective equipment), accidental information and emergency contact, etc.

Chemical inventory: Chemical inventory is the mirror of the overall chemical in the facilities/industry. It can help to know the total list of chemicals with quantities, using department and compliance level and expiry date, etc. The chemical inventory list can also help to avoid the duplicate purchase of similar chemicals. It can also ensure the traceability of chemicals for any root cause analysis of any noncompliance.

Process area

Chemical separation and segregation: Chemical separation and segregation is very important to avoid incident through a chemical reaction between adjacent stored chemical. Some chemical can accelerate flame or create an explosion if chemicals are not properly separated or segregated.

Chemical storage and onsite management: Chemical storage must follow chemical separation and segregation according to chemical compatibility chart. Chemical compatibility charts will give a guideline in which chemicals can be stored with what type of chemical. MSDS must be available to users of chemicals. Besides MSDS availability, a standard chemical store must have an arrangement for firefighting, well ventilation, continuous temperature and humidity monitoring system, use of secondary containment, emergency response system, etc.

Chemical management training: Training can ensure the technical know-how of chemicals. Training is the most essential tools to implement the chemical management system properly. There must be a defined procedure to identify training needs, training calendar, training records with the evaluation system. Training must cover the hazardous effect of chemicals, MSDS, safe handling, PPE, etc.

PPE (personal protective equipment) selection: PPE selection is another technical part of the safe handling of the chemical. PPE can protect the user from hazards through chemical exposure. Different chemicals require a different type of PPE. So, PPE must be selected according to the MSDS of specific chemicals.

Output area

Data analysis: Chemical test reports on the final product and wastewater give the overall picture of the input chemical. It helps to do root cause analysis for any noncompliance as well as corrective and preventive actions. Historical data also gives information about the different incidents of product reject/recall from the market, violation of local government law and environmental issues related to chemical hazards. The cost of the different incidents according to historical data can give information about the overall cost of using different hazardous/noncompliant chemicals. Overall cost due to product rejects, government penalty and loss of reputation can help management decision to purchase safer/ compliant chemicals.

Global requirement

Nowadays global requirements also becoming more stringent to save human health and environment, the textile industry may not get an order in the near future without zero discharge of hazardous chemicals or ZDHC compliance. If We want our textile industry continuously growing with a safe environment for our future generation, we do not have any other alternative to sustainable chemistry. So sustainable chemistry in textile processing is the prime requirement.

SGS, a name for sustainable chemical

SGS is the trusted quality partner of any sustainable development all over the world. Our slogan is ‘when you need to be sure’ and our mission and vision is building the trust of our client. It has more than 97,000 employees including scientists, engineers, doctors, chemists, auditors in 2,600 offices and laboratories all over the world. From the geographical location of Bangladesh, SGS has been supporting the government and the private organizations providing testing, inspection, verification and certification of products since 1950.

SGS Bangladesh Limited is also playing a vital role to implement sustainable chemistry in the textile processing industry. They are conducting chemical management training for industry people along with regulatory requirements so that industry can be technically well known about hazardous chemicals along with safer alternatives.

SGS is helping the industry to ensure the use of MRSL compliance of textiles processing chemicals and raw material by testing and certification. SGS is also helping the industry to ensure product compliance as per different regulations as well as zero discharge of hazardous chemicals compliance by testing of final product and discharge wastewater and Sludge. SGS is conducting chemical management audit and helping the industry to do root cause analysis for any noncompliance. SGS can also help the industry to implement chemical management best practice in their facilities.

So SGS Bangladesh is always beside Industry to ensure the implementation of sustainable chemistry in the textile processing industry.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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