The Editor's Page:

By Max W. Sung

Better living through chemistry: "Better Things for Better Living …through Chemistry" is a slogan first coined by Dupont during the Great Depression to change the public's perception of corporate leadership in society. Since that time, advances in chemistry and the pharmaceutical sciences have indeed proven that humans in the twentieth century can indeed enjoy "better living through chemistry."

The textile industry has also benefitted from scientific advances in chemistry. Chemicals are now used in every step of the textile production processes, from cleaning and preparation of natural fibres to dyeing, printing and finishing. Through chemical treatments, fabrics can be rendered crease resistant, softened for comfort, flame retardant for safety, oil repellent for cleanliness, as well as antistatic and antimicrobial. Fabrics in all shades of the rainbow are now achievable through the development of dyes, dyeing and printing processes.

It is therefore ironic to find that many of the chemicals used in the textile industry are now deemed to be hazardous to human health and to the environment.

Much has been written on the environmental hazards of toxic chemicals. Through contamination of the water supply and the food chain, these chemicals when ingested by humans in sufficient quantities can cause cancer and disrupt hormonal balances. There has been significant progress achieved through governmental legislation in many countries and voluntary compliance by textile producers in controlling environmental pollution through measures such as effective treatment of wastewater effluents to remove toxic chemicals.

A report from the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) last year identified a list of 1,900 chemical substances to be used in textile production; 165 of them were known to have toxic effects on human health. Even so, only a fraction of the chemicals used in the textile manufacturing process can actually be found in the finished product. The question is whether these chemicals in finished textiles are toxic and are present in sufficiently high quantities to be hazardous to human health? It has been known for many years that some textile chemicals that come in contact with the skin can induce an allergic reaction resulting in skin inflammation. Disperse dyes, for instance, have been reported to produce contact allergies in 1.5% of individuals tested. Only small amounts of the chemical needs to be taken up by skin cells to induce the allergic reaction. Formaldehyde, a finishing agent to confer crease resistance to fabric, is another skin-sensitising chemical. Dimethlylfumarate, a fungicide used to prevent mould in furniture, is volatile and can be picked up by skin even in the absence of physical contact. Toxic chemicals in apparel can enter the body in other ways besides through the skin. Dust containing chemicals from surfaces can be aerosolised and inhaled. Textile dust settles on objects and can be ingested when these objects such as toys are placed in the mouth, something that young children are prone to do. It is not surprising that regulations on chemicals in toys are stricter than in apparel.

The Oeko-Tex Association, a union of 16 institutes for textile research and testing in Europe and Japan, has developed the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label for finished textile products. The Standard 100 label indicates that the product has been tested by authorised independent textile research and testing institutes and has been found to be free from harmful levels of more than 300 chemicals believed to be harmful to human health. Testing for certification is voluntary and not mandated for commercial distribution of the finished product, but a Standard 100 label provides information to the consumer which could affect purchasing decisions.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association does not test for chemicals in finished textile products but does provide its members, which represent more than 1,000 world famous name brands, its restricted substance list (RSL) and the regulations and laws that restrict or ban these chemicals in finished home textile, apparel and footwear products around the world.

The Swedish Chemicals Agency's 2013 report to the Swedish government offered recommendations to harmonise and unify legislation at the European Union level on hazardous substances in finished textile products. The proposed legislation will regulate the maximal allowed concentration levels in the final product set to the classification limit of each substance. The logistics of how these products can be tested and regulated at this level are being studied.

The non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace that has 2.8 million members worldwide and representation in 45 countries takes a different approach to addressing the issue of toxic textile chemicals polluting the environment. It has taken textile products from brand labels, including children's garments, and had them tested at independent accredited laboratories. Substances tested include toxic chemicals such as nonyphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates, organotins, per/ poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs), and antimony. Although these chemicals were detected in the finished garments tested, they did not exceed levels known to constitute any direct health risks to wearers. Greenpeace takes the view that these chemicals, when released into the environment, may have hazardous effects on human health and other organisms, and that replacement with non-hazardous chemicals should be adopted.

With its 2011 Detox campaign, Greenpeace had called on major clothing companies to act as leaders and commit to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by January 2010. Eighteen major clothing companies have already made public commitments to Detox their supply chains. Greenpeace is monitoring the progress by these companies. In October 2013, Greenpeace released its "Detox Catwalk" - an interactive online platform identifying by name the companies that have failed to followthrough on their commitments. Greenpeace has been effective in using social media (Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest) to put pressure on textile producers and in using nonviolent action to publicise their message.

With these and other measures, we hope that chemistry will continue to contribute to better living in the next millennium.












Special Reports

  • A forum to promote research and knowledge exchange: The Textile Bioengineering and Informatics Symposium (TBIS) that was launched in 2008 at the Institute of Textiles and Clothing (ITC) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HK PolyU) and held again there the following year has since moved to various other universities signifying its much wider appeal and importance. Three subsequent editions were held in China - Donghua University in Shanghai (2010); Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (2011); and Xian University (2013) - and one (in 2012) in Japan's Shinshu University. This year it was back to HK PolyU and next year it will be at Australia's Deakin University.

    This seventh gathering last month (August) with the theme "Innovations for Protection, Health and Sustainability" also comprised the 5th Asian Protective Clothing Conference. On the whole, the assembly was described by the chairman of its organising committee and the head of ITC, Prof. John Xin, as an open stage for scholars and students to show academic achievements and a platform for face-to-face academic exchanges and for peer-to-peer communication to promote cross disciplinary research. The chairman of ITC's Textile Bioengineering and Informatics Society, Prof Yi Li, explained that textile bioengineering and informatics is to promote multi-disciplinary approach for creative design and engineering, to form a unique global platform and to test the new frontiers of research in fibre and textile bioengineering.

    By Vicky Sung

  • Rise of a constant companion of 21st century consumers: Feeling themselves time-starved, most of today's adult world population is multi-tasking. They want their clothing to multi-task as well, and denim is moving to meet that need. Against that background and encouraged by the success of its first fabric exhibition seminar in Hong Kong last year, Invista brought together industry specialists, prominent denim manufacturers, buyers and others in the value-chain again to a second exhibition seminar last June for sharing ideas and experiences as well as identifying new business opportunities. People now want, explains Steve Stewart, Invista's North Asia commercial director of apparel and advance textiles business, double- or triple-duty denim; and global megatrends are transforming denim from a 20th century icon into the constant companion of 21st century consumers. Thirteen of Invista's partner mills in the region participated in the second fabric exhibition seminar.

    By Alpana Shrestha

  • Denim finds its way into active wear: At the second Invista fabric exhibition seminar in Hong Kong last June, Steve Stewart, Invista's North Asia commercial director of apparel and advance textiles business, spoke with Textile Asia's assistant editor Alpana Shrestha. He said that there is now a crossover between denim wear and active wear. Today, we are seeing performance fibres, previously used exclusively in active wear, moving into jeans as well as active wear brands integrating denim into their lines.

  • World cotton stocks in 2014-15 could reach 22.2 million tons: Cotton production worldwide is likely to suffer 400,000-ton drop in 2014-15 while consumption is estimated to rise by 4%. Nonetheless, world stocks are projected to rise for the fifth successive seasons. .

American Markets

  • Apparel imports mark marginal rise in first half: Apparel imports by the United States continued to increase through the second quarter of this year, though at a modest pace, resulting in 3% growth in the first six months. Imports of woven and knit apparel posted modest increases through the second quarter of 2014. Total imports were valued at $38.156 billion, an increase of 3% from the second quarter of 2013. Second quarter imports, at 2.5% growth, were weaker than the 3.4% gain during the first quarter of the year. Import quantity was only 0.4% higher at 12.736 billion garments, reflecting a small decline in woven apparel being slightly offset by marginally higher knit apparel imports. Overall, imported quantity during the second quarter was 0.2% behind the same period of 2013

    By Douglas Smith, Columbia, S.C.

Products & Technology

  • Textiles can help solve food scarcity: Germany's roma-Strickstoff-Fabrik Rolf Mayer, and the State College of Horticulture and Agriculture in Stuttgart- Hohenheim, together with scientists at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim, have developed a certain heating textiles for use in plant cultivation. Temperature around the roots of plants is a crucial factor in germination of seeds, sprouting of bulbs and in the growth and development of plants. The heating textiles placed around the roots of the plants will supply them with targeted warmth as well as provide good frost protection and help tender plants to be grown even in difficult climatic conditions. This is a significant breakthrough considering that the world population now totalling more than 7.26 billion is estimated to exceed nine billion by the year 2050 and food production to feed the growing population is becoming a major global concern.

  • Four stunning blues, all for swanky denim: DyStar has developed a new range of blue shades and effects based on its patented Indigo Vat 40% solution. These new shades - Sky Blue, Ever Blue, Full Blue and Deep Blue - all for fashionable denim, were released in what the company called a Festival of Blue.

  • Cordura for a variety of all-season apparel: A new line of Cordura wool fabrics in twill, canvas, ripstop, dobby and stretch construction has been released by Burlington, which is part of the International Textile Group, Inc. (ITG).

  • Machine to make chic lace for outerwear: A new machine for producing jacquardtronic lace for outerwear has been launched by Karl Mayer. And it is striking a new chord on the market, says the manufacturer.

  • A new range of printing inks: Xennia Technology which provides a wide range of digital textile ink products has launched a full range of sublimation digital textile printing inks for proofing and production-scale decoration of polyester fabrics. Called Xennia Corundum, this new range designed for high quality sublimation polyester fabric printing using both coated and uncoated transfer papers offers, according to Xennia, "unsurpassed colour vibrancy and industrial reliability."

  • SGene yarn technology enters advanced phase: The SGene yarn technology that the US-based Cone Denim introduced in 2007 has now advanced to Level II which expands the collection and, using the company's patented dual-core spun yarns, takes the superior stretch performance of the spandex to the next level.

  • Low grade cotton can take out oil spill: Researchers at the Texas Tech University have recently discovered that low-grade cotton made into an absorbent nonwoven mat can help in cleaning up oil spill. The nonwoven mat developed from low-grade cotton proved to collect oil up to 50 times its own weight.

  • A solution to make reports as you like: WFX, a provider of next-generation cloud-based ERP and PLM software for apparel, has launched a business intelligence platform called WFX BI that will allow customers to design and create flexible reports and dashboards independently. .

Conferences & Exhibitions

  • Home textile show celebrates 20th anniversary with new milestones: Home textile production in China has become a vibrant industry since the country's CCPIT-Tex and the German trade fair organiser Messe Frankfurt teamed up to host the first Intertextile Shanghai Home Textile trade show in 1995. Last month, the show's 20th anniversary event counted record breaking number of exhibitors and buyers. The number of exhibitors at the three-day event (Aug 27-29) totalled 1,338 from 31 economies - including China with Morocco, Lithuania, and Mongolia as new overseas participants. Altogether, the exhibitors occupied 150,400 sqm in 13 halls. A total of43,189 buyers from 94 markets came to the show - 89% of them from China. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, and the US ranked as leading overseas buyers. Product groups were expanded to include upholstery fabrics and accessories, linen for bed, table and kitchen, bath products, wall coverings, carpets and rugs, systems for printing, design and styling.Yet, its domestic growth is only just beginning.

    By Vicky Sung

  • The way forward for growth: During the three-day show marking the 20th anniversary of the Intertextile Shanghai Home Textile trade fair, the chairman of China Home Textile Association Yang Shaohua discussed the future direction of China's home textile industry with Textile Asia's editorial consultant Vicky Sung. China is strong in exports, but it needs also to address the rapidly rising domestic demand, he said. The country, he pointed out, is turning to a consumer oriented direction where understanding the consumers' needs, quality improvement, sustainability and market driven approach are priorities. "If each person uses three more towels a year the demand will increase tremendously," he explained. Beddings and such other home needs are also in a similar situation. If consumption expanded along this logical path, China, Mr Yang said, would be importing home textiles.

  • The Hub - more than a gateway to Asia: The HUB, a fashion trade fair that started in Hong Kong as a venue for western international fashion brands to seek entry into the Asian market has since become a platform also for Asian brands to explore wider market opportunities. Its third edition last month attracted almost a hundred international exhibitors. They came from the Asia-Pacific region as well as Italy, France, Spain, the UK and the USA. The two-day event provided a platform for buyers, multi- and mono-brand store owners and distributors to connect with key brands and designers from over 18 countries.

    By Alpana Shrestha

  • More exhibitors join next Interfilière Shanghai and SML: The number of exhibitors registering to participate in the next presentation of Interfilière Shanghai and Shanghai Mode Lingerie in China's economic nerve centre, Shanghai, has already exceeded the 269 that took part in the previous edition of this event. By early September, when the show was more than a month away from opening, more than 270 exhibitors have registered, according to Eurovet, the lingerie and swimwear expert that organises this event. These exhibitors for the two-day show due to open on October 20 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center come from 19 markets.

  • Dubai 2014 moved forward: Dubai 2014 - the conference and trade event of the International Cotton Association (ICA) that was to be held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 2 and 3, has now been moved forward to October 1 and 2 because of the religious festivals Eid and Waqf Al Arafa coinciding with the event.

  • Texworld's first show in Istanbul this November: Texworld, the international trade fair for fabrics, trims and accessories, will hold its first show in Istanbul at the Lütfi Kirdar International Convention & Exhibition Centre from November 4 to 6, this year. This event is aimed primarily at buyers and trade visitors from Turkey, the Near- and Middle-East, Central Asia, Southeast Europe, parts of Eastern Europe and Russia.

  • Conference on fashion on new frontiers: The Association of Supplier to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) will hold a special conference called 'Fashion on New Frontiers - What's Next?' next month at the Queens Hotel in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.

  • ITMF 2014 annual meet scheduled in Beijing: The 2014 annual conference of the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) will be held in Beijing next month (October) with special focus on the Chinese fibres, textile and apparel industry. Scheduled from the 16th to the18th and hosted by the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC), some 400 participants from around the world are expected to attend.

  • Yiwu gets ready for 3-in-1 ZhejiangTex: A four-day trade fair in Yiwu in China's Zhejiang province that will comprise three exhibitions presenting various garments manufacturing machinery will be held at the Yiwu International Expo Centre from November 19 to 22 this year.

  • IDEA 2016: The next International Engineered Fabrics Conference and Exposition (IDEA) of the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) will take place from May 3-5, 2016 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

  • Surtex in New York: The annual trade show for the surface design industry, Surtex, which Emerald Expositions organises, will hold its next edition on May 17-19 next year at the Javits Centre in New York.

  • ShanghaiTex next June: The 17th International Exhibition on Textile Industry (ShanghaiTex) will be held at Shanghai New International Expo Centre from June 15 to 18, next year. Besides presenting the world's most innovative textile machinery, it will also showcase latest development of new textile technology applications in fashion and apparel industry as well as footwear, functional wear, interior auto parts, medical care, health protection, agriculture, construction and many other sectors. .

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