Well, the solution is to remove these chemicals entirely and replace them with non-toxic alternatives. But what is stopping this from being actioned immediately? A number of things, including the myriad of international chemical manufacturers, the lack of a single global mandatory regulation, the poor understanding of chemical toxicity (in some cases) and perhaps even the pressure to produce huge volumes of cheap materials quickly to meet the demands of mass production. In a more practical sense, the tracing and checking of chemicals contained in formulations for dyeing and finishing have been largely manual, which also introduces human error.
There are, however, some initiatives that are starting to turn the tide on toxic chemicals and these are part of a global shift towards the use of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) and circular design. This is considered the gold standard in sustainable design because it addresses chemical usage before the product has even been designed, as opposed to the current system of testing the chemical profile of a garment after it has been manufactured - sometimes even after it has been exported from the country of manufacture.
The key initiative providing a blueprint for safe and non-toxic chemical use is the Manufacturers Restricted Substance List (MRSL). This list was devised by the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme; a coalition of fashion brands, value chain affiliates and associates working with global textile, leather, apparel and footwear manufacturers to substitute hazardous chemicals for safer ones in the production process.
The MRSL list, although a complete guideline for safe chemical use, is laden with complex chemical names and is not easy to interpret without a solid grasp of chemistry. A company called GoBlu, whose co-founders have decades of experience working in the mass manufacturing sector, have created the BHive app that uses image recognition to cross-check photos of chemical container ingredients with the MRSL list to flag any restricted substances, reducing the need for chemical expertise and reducing the risk of human error. Currently, brands, manufacturers and chemical providers are using the app, along with certification providers including GOTS and Oeko-tex, so that certifications can be cross-checked at the same time.