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Textile Product Liability and Safety Regulations

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Governments enforce very strict regulations about the safety standards on consumer products in order to ensure the well being of its people. When a consumer is hurt, or killed due to the fault of the product of the product or malfunction of the product, the consumer or his/her relatives may sue the retailer who sold the goods and/or the importer who imported the goods and /or the manufacturer who made the goods for a very large amount of money.

In most developed countries, the government enforces very strict regulations about the safety standards on consumer products in order to ensure the well being of its people. These regulations are particularly strong on goods intended for children such as toys and children’s wear. If we in inadvertently make goods with some potential, we may get ourselves in very serious situations.

When a consumer is hurt, or killed due to the fault of the product of the product or malfunction of the product, the consumer or his/her relatives may sue the retailer who sold these goods and/or the importer who imported these goods and /or the manufacturer who made these goods for a very large amount of money and stand a good chance to win.

The amount payable to the victims is usually so big that it may put a company out of business. There are 3 parties involved—the retail store, the importer and the manufacturer. It is very difficult to say who should be responsible and to what extent without letting the judge see the contractual details and study the process in which the order was handled.

If the hazard is discovered when the goods are made or shipped but not paid for by the buyer, he may find a way to cancel the purchase of these goods. If the goods have been received and paid for by the retails store, the store may return these goods to the importer or want the importer to sign an agreement of indemnity and then keep the goods, for the importer to take over the entire liability. When the hazard really turns into an accident, the importer will be responsible but he will do this best to shift the responsibility of the manufacturer.

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In view of the above complexity and intricacy due to the interrelated elements, usually, the retails store, the importers and manufacturers would cover the product liability insurance. One should consider doing so if one has not taken it. A small minimum may save us a lot of grief.

Common Hazards and its remedies

In order to avoid the risk as a merchandiser or a manufacturer, we should be aware of the potential hazards and for everything possible to avoid them. If we suspect a hazard in the product to be made, we should bring it to the attention of the buyer for a discussion. Following are some common hazards:

  • Flammability: On children’s wear, the fabric should not catch fire easily. In other words, the fabrics used in garments should be “fire retardant”.It simply means that it should not get ignited or catches fire and continues to burn into flames. To ensure the fabric is acceptable, you have to send a sample to the laboratory for testing, but you may also do a simple test yourself in the following manner to get the answer quickly hold the fabric perpendicularly and hold a lighter halfway down to the fabric to give fire to the surface of the fabric for 4 seconds and then move the lighter away. If the fabric does not catch fire and does not continue to burn when the lighter is moved away chances are, this fabric is OK. However, if the fabric catches fire and continues to burn into flames, this fabric has a strong potential problem. It stands a good chance of failing the test. If you still want to use it on children’s wear, you must send it to a laboratory for flammability test. Please note the flammability act in the US is especially strict on children’s sleepwear. If you have any doubts then discuss the issue with your buyer and send a cutting of the fabric to a laboratory for testing.
  • Draw String on Children’s wear: On children’s wear, you cannot use draw-string on the neck and the hood in fear of the danger of an accident. If you are given an order to make a garment with a draw-string on the neck, or on the hood, you should double check with the buyer and make him aware of the safety guidelines. However, drawstring on the waist or any part of the garment below the waist is acceptable.
  • Lead content in the paint on garment accessories: Lead is a cumulative toxic heavy metal and is poisonous if ingested. It can cause a wide range of health problems including hyperactivity, learning disorders, withdrawal blindness, seizures, brain damage and even death. Once a lead is ingested, it will stay in the person’s body for the remainder of his/her lifetime to cause health problems.In view of the above reason, U.S government has banned the use of lead-containing paint on certain products particularly toys. In the garment industry, the most common garment accessories used on children’s wear are:
    • Printed metal snaps or buttons.
    • Printed metal zipper sliders.

    If you are required to use the above accessories, you must strongly advise the suppliers to use paint without lead content(commonly called toy paint) or with such low lead content that it is. A test should be performed on the snap or zipper sliders before you should put them on garments.

  • Azo Dye stuff may cause danger: It is believed that the Azo dyes which may contain the following 20 amines may cause cancer:
    • Aminodiphenyl
    • Benzidine
    • Chloro-0-toluidine
    • Naphthylamine
    • Aminoazotoluene
    • Amino-4-nitrotoluene
    • P-Choloroanilne
    • Diaminodiphenylmethane
    • Diaminodiphenylmethane
    • Dochlorbenzidine
    • Dimenthozybenzidine
    • Dimethylbenzidine
    • Dimethyl
    • Diaminodiphenylmethane
    • P-Kresidin
    • Methylene-bis-(2-chloroaniline)
    • Oxydianiline
    • Thiodianiline
    • Toluidine
    • Toluylendiamine
    • Trimethylamine

    The garment industry has decided to ban the sales of garments made of fabrics treated with Azo dyes which contain the above amines. This regulation has been enforced in Germany since April 1, 1996. Other countries in Europe, U.S.A, and Canada are likely to follow but so far a decision has not been made.

    Azo dyes are most recently found in the following dyeing methods:

    • Direct Dyes
    • Acid dyes (for wool, nylon, and silk)
    • Disperse dyes(for polyester)

    They are less found in the following:

    • Indigo Dye
    • Vat dye
    • Sulfur dye
    • Pigment Dye

    In other words, when we buy fabrics of direct dye, acid dyes, and disperse dyes, we should make it clear to the supplier that your goods are for shipment to Germany and that you do not want the dye to contain any of these 20 amines named above. The dyeing mills should be able to choose dyestuff without the 20 amines to use to avoid the hazard.

    Garment merchandisers should watch the development of this Azo dye situation. If one is not able to update or is in doubt, it is not a bad idea to consult some of the reputable testing laboratories engaged in garment tests who should be well informed of the regulations of the various garment importing countries. One must observe the regulations to avoid the potential problem.

  • Always be aware of new regulations into effect on certain dyes of certain chemicals used in the wash of garments.Your ignorance of the regulations may not keep you clear of the problems although the buyer should be more aware of them and forewarn you in the process of placing the order with you.
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  2. Howard A Gutman says

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