As global sourcing increases brands must be aware of the inconsistencies in legislation across world markets. Such legislation has very real implications for brands selling leather products. Laws dictate the use of restricted substances but legislation varies from one marketplace to another. What is acceptable practice in the leather industry in Japan or America could lead to a prison sentence in the EU.

BLC leather Technology Centre has the expertise to enable brands to keep abreast of all relevant worldwide developments. In addition, testing will protect brand image against potentially damaging legal claims.

The new European legislation coming into force later this year is adding yet more chemicals to the list of restricted substances. Current UK legislation only directly specifies PCP (pentachlorophenol) and even here the limit of 1,000ppm is higher than would be expected in leather. However, when the UK adopts new legislation on September 11, 2003, leather products will have limits for the presence of certain Azo dyes. Further chemicals may be added as part of an EU directive (76/769/EEC), which is continuously being updated (over 20 amendments!)

Chemicals are placed on the list to protect the consumer, or because they are dangerous to the environment. The German Consumer Goods legislation appears to be a key driver in tightening the rules. If a product containing these restricted substances finds its way into the consumer’s home then, theoretically and only in extreme cases, the presence of certain restricted substances could lead to skin irritation and allergies.

Yet it is not complex to avoid these problems in the first place. It is, for instance, perfectly easy to ensure that limits for PCP and Azo dyes are met by using correct chemical selections.

Restricted substances may be found in leather for a variety of reasons and can originate from the raw material. Animals can passively accumulate certain substances – often via pesticides – in their lifetimes. However, out of date preservation processes, incorrect chemical selection and poor processing conditions are also contributory factors.

European legislation is enforced in the UK by Trading Standards organisations. Products are randomly tested by these government agencies and if they fail to reach specified safety standards then prosecutions may follow. If negligence is demonstrated prison sentences can result. It is essential that the leather industry understands how to comply with new the legislation and BLC Leather Technology Centre