he lifting of textile import quotas by the World Trade Organization (WTO) has
dramatically increased the volume of textile and apparel imports from China and other countries
into the United States. The New York Times reported that in January 2005 alone, the United States
imported more than $1.2 billion in textiles and apparel from China, up from about $701 million a
Retailers and consumers must know if products from abroad are environmentally friendly and
free of harmful substances. US textile and apparel manufacturers wonder if these products comply
with regulatory and safety requirements they must abide by in the United States. The
well-established and internationally recognized Oeko-Tex Standard 100 concept can answer these
To assess the growing significance of the standard for the North American market, the
executive committee of the International Oeko-Tex Association, Switzerland, recently visited a
number of well-known textile and apparel manufacturers in the United States. The delegation
included representatives from the Germany-based Hohenstein Research Institute, which was one of the
founders of the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 in 1992. The organization currently operates the only two
Oeko-Tex branches in North America one in Apex, N.C., and one in Mexico City.
The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 serves as a benchmark for environmental friendliness and overall
quality in textiles.
Oeko-Tex Certification In North America
Currently, there are 27 companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico that hold Oeko-Tex
certificates. However, in view of the relaxation of trade barriers by the WTO, national
manufacturers are becoming more interested in using the internationally recognized Oeko-Tex
Standard 100 to position themselves as high-quality providers and to prove it to their consumers in
the retail business, said Raimar Freitag, secretary general, Oeko-Tex.
Many companies from all phases of production in North America from suppliers of raw
materials and accessories to yarn and fabric manufacturers and garment manufacturers are already
involved with the Oeko-Tex certification system. Therefore, expanding the Oeko-Tex network is easy
because it is possible to use imported materials that are Oeko-Tex-certified.
For US consumers, issues such as skin-friendliness and other health aspects are more
important than ever when buying textiles. It may be a reflection of the general wellness trend or a
consequence of changing attitudes about ecology that creates a desire for more sustainability in
all aspects of life. One of the early pioneers of Oeko-Tex Standard 100 in the United States is
Portland, Ore.-based Hanna Andersson, a mail-order house specializing in apparel for the entire
family. According to its catalog and website, “You’ll notice that many hannas throughout the
catalog are certified, and as we add more, were placing not only softness against babies and
childrens skin, but safety as well.”
Of The Oeko-Tex Label
As a global certification system capable of testing raw materials, interim products and
end-products, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 has established itself in the textile chain as a firm
benchmark for textiles that aren’t harmful to health and the environment. With more than 45,000
certificates issued for millions of individual products, and more than 6,000 companies
participating in 80 countries, the Oeko-Tex label is the most well-known and successful brand of
its kind, according to the association.
The leading regions with certifications are Europe (68.8 percent) and Asia (28.9 percent).
The major selling markets for Oeko-Tex-certified products are the European countries and Japan,
where consumers ecological awareness is most strongly developed. There, the Oeko-Tex label can be
found in all kinds of retail stores, including mass retailers and food discount stores. Oeko-Tex
labels are found so frequently on all categories of articles that it now is almost like a brand
name for customers.
Benefits Of The Modular Oeko-Tex System
For Industry And RetailersThe modular principle of Oeko-Tex certification means that
licensed companies can minimize their testing costs. Using certified components for their products
spreads the costs among all suppliers. Sources for possible harmful substances are likely
introduced during manufacturing. However, manufacturers can use production processes that use no
When the globally accepted Oeko-Tex criteria are used as delivery requirements, product
safety is maximized for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
The test criteria are updated each year and always are based on the latest scientific
findings and current legal requirements. The testing for harmful substances is carried out by the
independent institutes of the Oeko-Tex Association. Certified products give peace of mind to
consumers and are powerful selling arguments for the retail trade. If product properties such as
functionality, fashionable design, ease of care and long service life, among others, are similar,
home textiles and apparel that bear the Oeko-Tex certificate offer the important benefit of being
safe for human health, regardless of where they are manufactured.
The Oeko-Tex List Of Criteria
Another advantage of the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is its comprehensive and practical testing
scope for textiles. As a general principle, the larger the skin contacts for a textile, the
stricter are human-ecological requirements for textile products.The Oeko-Tex list of criteria
includes both legally banned and identified harmful substances, and certain parameters for human
health protection. Specifically, textile products are tested for carcinogenic and allergy-inducing
dyes, banned azo dyes and pesticide residues. There also are strict limits for formaldehyde,
extractable heavy metals, chlorinated phenols, toluene and organo-tin compounds. Finally, textiles
must be colorfast and have a skin-friendly pH value.
Requirements For Oeko-Tex Certification
Products can only bear the Oeko-Tex label if all their components satisfy the Oeko-Tex
Standard 100 criteria. Those products include non-textile accessories such as zippers, buttons and
interlining, among others. An Oeko-Tex certificate is valid for one year and can be extended only
after passing the tests again. For quality assurance, authorized Oeko-Tex institutes carry out
annual random tests of Oeko-Tex-labeled products purchased in the marketplace at a rate of at least
15 percent of issued certificates.