Saturday, April 13, 2024


Mustanzid Hasan Murad,

Research Assistant, Textile Focus

 Today, every company or brands are serious about Sustainable Manufacturing, Chemicals Management, and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS). As a result they has their own Restricted Substances List. The purpose of it is to avoid or control substances used in textile production processes to final product. Every brands, suppliers, and upstream vendors— including raw material and chemical suppliers, mills, dye houses, trim and packaging suppliers, screen-printers, factories, and other business entities involved in the manufacture of apparel and footwear finished goods are trying to avoid the substance in their product. That means there are a lot of lists out there that suppliers need to be aware of – literally thousands and thousands. Every product needs to comply with these buyer-specific RSLs if anyone want to do business with them.

Restricted Substance List (RSL)

RSL stands for Restricted Substance List (RSL) is intended to provide apparel and footwear companies with information related to regulations and laws that restrict or ban certain chemicals and substances in finished home textile, apparel, and footwear products around the world.

Restricted substances are chemicals and other substances the use or presence of which has been banned or otherwise restricted by a brand. Typically, a restricted substance must be absent from a finished product or present below maximum allowable levels. Restricted substances may be restricted across many industries, across one industry, or in certain products or inputs.

An RSL does not have any involvement with the manufacturing process and only applies to finished products.

An RSL is used as a tool to aid regulatory compliance to product safety standards such as REACH, The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), CPSIA, California Proposition 65, Guo Bio Standards and so on. Finished products should undergo chemical testing as part of a structured due diligence testing programme to ensure compliance with regulation and brand’s own RSL.

MRSL – Manufacturing Restricted Substances List

MRSL stands for Manufacturing Restricted Substance List and provides brands, retailers, suppliers and manufacturers with acceptable limits of restricted substances in chemical formulations which are used in the raw material and product manufacturing processes.

An MRSL is used as a tool by companies around the world to regulate the safety of chemical formulations used to make the raw materials that go into products and samples. The regulation of chemical formulations upstream, through an MRSL, protects workers, consumers and the environment. Adhering to an MRSL can also protect brands and retailers from any potential negative publicity on product safety.

Why Substances Are Restricted

Substances are restricted for many reasons. Some substances are restricted due to concern for the environment, while others are restricted due to health and safety concerns for workers or consumers. Some are restricted by legislation. Substances are restricted in different ways. As noted above, some substances are banned from use during the manufacturing process or banned from finished products entirely. Other substances might be banned if they are present above certain concentration limits or if they leach a certain amount from a finished product under predefined conditions. In each case, a substance restriction is usually accompanied by a test method that brands and suppliers can use to verify if a chemical is present and, if so, to ensure the chemical is below the restricted level.

Why Every Brand Has Their Own RSL List:

The purpose of a RSL-MRSL is to reduce the use of hazardous substances in consumer goods and supply chains. Companies publish their RSL’s to ensure suppliers and vendors, and internal corporate employees are aware of, and can follow corporate restricted substance requirements.

Some of the most relevant lists in the textile industry are the MRSLs created by international brands such as H&M, C&A, Marks & Spencer, PVH, Next, Target Australia, VF Corporation (Lee, Wrangler), Levi Strauss & Co, Nike, Puma, G-Star and so many. Today, companies are choosing to adopt the ZDHC MRSL as suppliers are very familiar with it.

Why RSLs Are Important for Suppliers:

There are several mandatory requirements that exporters to the European Market, USA needs to comply with. This includes legal requirements concerning product safety, the use of chemicals (REACH), quality and labelling. Additionally, many buyers have created non-negotiable terms and conditions which all their suppliers need to respect. These requirements are non-legal, but still mandatory. Both categories of requirements have become stricter in recent years and this trend will continue. Any item on sale in Europe must comply with the EU’s General Product Safety Directive (GPSD). In addition, certain textile and apparel products have specific safety requirements. Product-specific requirements take precedence over the GPSD. National governments will check if the product meets the applicable safety requirements. If the product is considered unsafe, it will be rejected or withdrawn from the European market. If buyer has supplied the product design, it is his or her responsibility to make sure it is legally safe for consumers to use. However, if they have any doubts that a design is not compliant with the EU’s GPSD, always discuss this with the buyer before start of the production process.


The first are restrictions to limit release into the environment, usually at the end of life of the product when it is disposed of. The second are restrictions to limit direct exposure to individuals using or handling the product. Toy and medical device regulations and standards are examples that address this aspect.

Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)

The Restriction of the use Of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS), European Directive 2011/65/EU amended by EU 2015/863 (RoHS2), limits ten substances. This list includes four heavy metals, two brominated flame retardants, and four phthalates. It applies to electrical and electronic products. Many similar regulations exist throughout the world, for example, China Administrative Measures for the Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Products (China RoHS2).

Limits are set at 1000 ppm (by weight) for all substances except for cadmium, which is set at 100 ppm at the homogenous level. Homogeneous material means a component or material that cannot be mechanically disjointed into different materials by unscrewing, cutting, crushing, grinding, abrasive processes and similar procedures. The purpose is to limit these harmful substances from being released into the environment after the product is discarded.

Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)

The Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is a complete re‑evaluation of chemicals used in the European Union (EU). REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 is a broad piece of legislation that covers all industries in the EU and products, materials, intermediates and substances manufactured in or imported into the EU. Chemicals of concern are identified and added to Annex XIV and referred to as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC). Its purpose is to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances in order to reduce the number of tests on animals.

There are two lists within REACH. Candidate List chemicals are subject to protocols such as restricting amounts in products, manufacturing processes, consumer uses or emissions and end of life releases. These are known as REACH regulation threshold amounts. Authorization List chemicals require authorization by the EU before a company is allowed to use them in manufacturing. At the end of 2016, there were 31 SVHCs in the Authorization List and 169 SVHCs in the Candidate List.

Unless otherwise noted in Annex XVII, the concentration limit is 0.1% weight by weight (0.1% of substance total in total article weight). An article means an object which during production is given a special shape, surface or design which determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition. Articles which are present in complex products (i.e., products composed of several articles) also must meet the concentration limit, as long as these articles keep a special shape, surface or design or as long as they do not become waste.

The list of SVHCs is broad and impacts many industries. A substance may be proposed as an SVHC if it is carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction, persistent bio accumulative and toxic, very persistent and very bio accumulative, or if there is scientific evidence of probably serious effects to human health or the environment that give rise to an equivalent level of concern. Unlike RoHS, REACH does not have mirror regulations world-wide. There are some regulations with the same intent, for example the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) overhauled by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

In the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death. The CPSC uses the federal toy safety standard, ASTM F963-11 to protect children aged 12 and under. ASTM F963 is a comprehensive standard that addresses many hazards related to toys. Besides physical and mechanical properties, the standard also addresses limits for substances that are toxic, corrosive, an irritant, sensitizer or pressure generating, and radioactive, flammable, and combustible materials. ASTM F963 has limits for eight heavy metals that vary depending on the metal type. Additionally, six types of phthalates are currently banned for use in children’s toys and certain child care articles according to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

In Europe, the EN71 series of standards covers toy safety. EN71-3 contains requirements for limiting heavy metals to minimize children’s exposure to certain potentially toxic elements. The standard limits 19 metals from toy materials and parts of toys. The limits vary based on the metal type and material application. The EU Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC has additional restrictions for substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMRs). REACH applies to toys as well, and RoHS applies to toys with electrical or electronic components. Many country and regional standards and regulations use either ASTM F963 or EN71-3 as a basis for their requirements.

Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management Group (AFIRM)

The AFIRM RSL and brand-specific RSLs clearly set forth for suppliers those chemicals that are restricted. When placing orders, AFIRM brands will make it clear to suppliers that compliance with their RSL is required. It is expected that all footwear, apparel, accessories, and equipment comply with the requirements of the RSL on an on-going basis. AFIRM recommends that suppliers understand the purpose of an RSL and develop their own programs to ensure they comply with their customers’ RSL requirements. A brand RSL is typically based on environmental and health and safety risk assessments, current and anticipated legal requirements of markets where products are distributed or sold, and industry best practices. If a brand has an RSL, it is essential to follow its RSL. Because individual brand RSLs vary, it is critical to check with your customer to ensure that you are using the correct list. If a customer does not have an RSL, the AFIRM RSL is a good place to start. The AFIRM RSL lists substances currently subject to legislated limits around the world, as well as limits based on best practices in the apparel and footwear industries.

Uses of the AFIRM RSL

AFIRM member brands may differ on individual parameters; suppliers are advised to check with the customer regarding brand-specific requirements. The AFIRM RSL leverages AFIRM’s mission — “to reduce the use and impact of harmful substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain” — by providing a single set of information for maximum and in-depth implementation within the supply chain. Some examples of uses for the AFIRM RSL, depending on the objectives of the user, include:

  • Providing a tool for vendors to establish chemical management knowledge and processes.
  • Building full or base compliance with AFIRM member chemical restrictions.
  • Providing a common base for testing, which may be accepted by multiple AFIRM brands. AFIRM member companies determine and communicate to their vendors their testing requirements and acceptance of test reports.
Figure: Some renowned brands that are the members of AFIRM

Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC)

The ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme has developed a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (ZDHC MRSL) for the textile, apparel, and footwear (including leather) industries (‘Industry”). The ZDHC MRSL addresses hazardous substances potentially used and discharged into the environment during manufacturing and related processes deep within the value chain – not just those substances that could be present in finished products.

ZDHC was started in 2011, mostly as a response to the Greenpeace Detox campaign. Part of the initial work established a Joint Roadmap that demonstrated the collaborative efforts and steps needed to lead the apparel and footwear industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals for all products across all pathways by 2020. The group is diverse and includes:

  • Brands from Europe and the U.S.
  • Sportswear, Luxury and Fashion brands
  • Multi-billion dollar companies as well as small niche brandsimage003image005


The RSL was developed to serve as a practical tool to help those individuals in textile, apparel, and footwear companies, and their suppliers, responsible for environmental compliance throughout the supply chain, to become more aware of various national and international regulations governing the amount of substances that are permitted in finished home textile, apparel, and footwear products. The RSL will be updated on a regular basis and will be supplemented with additional resources to help officials in these companies undertake responsible chemical management practices in the aforementioned finished products.

Determining substance limits based on toxicological effects is a complex process and may go well beyond regulatory limits. The requirements for substance restrictions are influenced by the toxicology, product use, end of life handling and consumer perception.

Many product compliance engineers, designers and managers are only aware of the regulatory limits on substances and do not have toxicologists available to explain the reasons why certain substances are restricted. Understanding the effect of these substances on the human body and environment, and the dose at which these effects occur, can help in determining a margin of safety for many types of products.



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