What We Do

Colorants are part of our daily life and are used in almost endless applications. Our goal is to be active wherever the safety of colorants is discussed, to provide our scientific know-how and even to create new one when necessary, so that any risk for customers as well as end users is minimized.

Some of our current activities

  • ZDHC: our work in the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals group
  • Nano: the consequences of the nano debate on organic pigments
  • Standards: ETAD’s involvement in the development of current standards
  • Colorant impurities: our focus on the chemical profile of colorants
  • Printing inks: collaboration with national authorities to improve current legislation

Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals

We have been collaborating with the ZDHC group since its foundation by providing colorants-specific input on the Manufacturer Restricted Substances List (MRSL) as well as general advice on existing certification systems.
Among other things, we also specially promoted the use of responsible care and product stewardship programs as indicators of reliable chemical manufacturers. Additionally, we published two references for down-stream users: “ETAD trace metal limits for dyes used in textile applications” and “ETAD recommended trace metal limits for organic pigments used in textile applications”.

Our activities in further detail:

  • We promote ETAD’s companies as reliable colorants suppliers
  • We participate in ZDHC ‘s  Chemical Suppliers Advisory Group (CSAG) and MRSL Adisory Council (MAC), representing, together with TEGEWA and various chemical companies, responsible manufacturers of textile chemicals
  • We coordinated and provided necessary information for the creation of a realistic MRSL for textiles
  • We follow the development of testing routines for specific substances in colorants
  • We provide feedback to the fact sheets on different classes of chemicals
  • We help in the assessment of new chemicals proposed for the MRSL


We recognized since the beginning of the nano debate that organic pigments are nanomaterials whose safety is supported by all existing scientific studies and test results.
We have worked since in different frameworks and in direct contact with authorities to strengthen this message.
Our most recent activity is a specific project aimed to clarify the inhalation toxicity of nano pigments in comparison to non-nano pigments.

Key points of our strategy:

  • Organic pigments are been on the market for several decades, and experience over this time has given no indication of adverse effects that can be attributed solely to their very small size
  • We found that available measurement methods indicated that several pigments might be definitely identified as nanomaterials
  • In line with its commitment to Responsible Care, we decided to base our activities on the assumption that all organic pigments are nanomaterials
  • We evaluate exposure scenarios for pigments, especially those where humans may come into prolonged and continuous contact with systems containing nano organic pigments
  • We collect all available information and create new data to confirm the safety of our products
  • We communicate clearly with authorities and discuss how to clarify the status of organic pigments as regards inventories or specific nano-related legislation


Regulatory, association and retailer standards keep growing in importance for our industry, usually requiring compliance of colorants to variable impurity profiles.

Thanks to its reputation ETAD is often involved in the development of standards already in their draft version; in our role of internationally acknowledged competent advisors we aim to achieve requirements which are based on solid science and mirror the state of the art of both colorants manufacturing and analytics.

Some relevant standards to which we give input:

Trace metals / impurities

Even high-quality colorants might contain unwanted substances, which need to be identified and whose effect on the product’s properties has to be assessed. Once the substances’ profiles are clarified, appropriate measures will be taken in order to ensure the safe use of colorants.

Our current focus is on:

  • Heavy metals:
    Already in the ‘70s we issued the first recommendation on the content of heavy metals in colorants. These general limits have been incorporated in many regulatory texts and are still the reference, e.g., for textile applications. As latest example, the ZDHC MRSL also refers to these limits for heavy metals in pigments relevant for the apparel industry.
    More recently we issued recommendations for the metal content of pigments used in toys and food contact applications, and made the requirements for metals in dyes mandatory for all our members.
  • General impurities:
    The impurity profile of colorants is more and more important for modern standards and regulatory purposes. We constantly update our information on existing and newly identified impurities, update our own references for colorants accordingly, and provide external input to other involved parties.
  • PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls):
    We were the first to address the presence of PCBs in some organic pigments, to propose corresponding safe limits and a suitable analytical method.
  • PAAs (primary aromatic amines classified as carcinogenic):
    We recently “upgraded” our limits for PAAs in dyes in consumer applications to mandatory requirements for ETAD members, and finalized a specific method for PAAs traces in organic pigments. We also discuss with competent authorities new regulatory developments for PAAs in various applications.

Printing inks

Our Pigment Operating Committee (POC) is discussing current regulations focusing on the use of pigments in printing inks. Within this context, the focus is both on printing inks used for non-food and for food contact materials (FCM). Especially FCM involve critical health and environmental aspects and have become the most extensive subject of regulations.

Our activities in detail:

  • We started collaboration with Swiss and German authorities in order to define the purity required for printing inks used in food contact materials
  • Our companies clarified which organic pigments are relevant and which information is needed to evaluate the safety for this applications
  • We are now collecting all available data and creating new ones when necessary
  • We aim to have all relevant products for our companies as part of the updated positive lists of allowed ingredients