And really a bad one, blamed and hunted already for years. But as we are not playing World of Warcraft, I have to find another way to tell you this story. Let's keep it simple: on December 14, the EU blacklisted one of the villains of the chemicals world, the hormone disruptor Octylphenol. A much needed step to begin with, the next should be its phase out, which would be good news for the environment and for public health and at the same time a clear message to the companies that base their production on hazardous chemicals: the sooner you detox the better!

This is in short what in the language of chemistry and European legislation sounds more like: "Octylphenol, proposed by Germany as a REACH Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC), has been the first Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) to be added to the Candidate List, which paves the way for its later allocation to the Authorization Annex". 
What a maze of obscure names and legal jargon. But to the finely tuned ear of a Toxics Campaigner this can sound as a Christmas carol! 

In 2003, the Ospar Convention - Convention for the protection of the marine environement of the North-East Atlantic - reported that "Octyphenol is very toxic to aquatic organisms, it's not easily degraded in the environment, and has the potential to cause significant endocrine disruption effects".  It belongs to same family of hazardous substances - Alkyphenols - we highlighted during our recent Detox campaign, asking the textile industry to phase them out as soon as possible.

This chemical is still used in some of its forms in the textile manufacturing. We found it in childrenswear made by Disney in 2004, in the fish of the Yangtzee River  in 2010 and it's been under the spotlight of international regulatory bodies for years because of its hazardous properties.

So it's about time the EU took action. The phase out process starts by blacklisting the substance targeted for phase out under the chemical legislation called REACH.  The EU has recognised Octylphenol as one of the toxic chemicals that need to be replaced with something safer - a logical step for a chemical that can disrupt our hormone system.

So another example of states doing what they should do in the interest of the people they represent, although very often it takes them years to do the right thing. In this case it is also important signal to the textile & apparel brands:  get rid of these chemicals now.

Progress and hurdles on the road to detox

Some of these companies are on the right path and we are happy to see that, but now we need real action on the ground and we need it fast. The draft Joint Roadmap should have more of such action. And if you want to have an in-depth read of the technical comments we are giving to the companies involved check this link .

If the chemistry and the legal jargon are not your thing but this doesn't make you less eager to see these companies walk the talk then watch this space: we will keep you posted on how are they doing.


Martin Hojsik has been a Greenpeace campaigner on toxic pollution for over a decade. He is now leading our global work on water pollution.