If you haven’t heard of aniline, chances are you soon will.
Aniline is considered the “mother molecule” of indigo, which gives jeans its blue color. But it has stirred controversy in recent years, causing some large brands and retailers to put it on the black list.
Here is the dilemma: If you take aniline out of the equation, the dye will still produce a range of blue hues, which are suitable for the mass market, but the purists among the denim heads may reject it. Whereas if you leave it in, it will pose a potential hazard to human health.
The EPA has classified aniline as a Group B2 probable human carcinogen. It has also been shown to be toxic to aquatic life, “which is an issue,” notes Swiss-based color chemicals specialist Archroma, “as two thirds of the 400 metric tons of aniline waste on an annual basis ends up in the environment as wastewater discharge.”
Archroma has been sounding the alarm bells for years, deploring the negative impacts of aniline after its testing showed that aniline concentrations routinely found in denim garments are frequently higher than expected, which could put some manufacturers over the limits they agreed to respect on their restricted substance lists (RSLs).
The chemicals specialist is offering a solution: The Denisol® Pure Indigo 30 dye, which is an “aniline-free indigo,” meaning its aniline levels are below the limits of detection.
“By removing a hazardous impurity from the denim supply chain, we aim to protect the workers who create denim, the consumers who wear denim, and the environment with cleaner waterways,” says Archroma’s CEO Alexander Wessels.
The company successfully tested the new dye at Absolute Denim mill in Thailand, with promising results. “Everything performed exactly the same as it would with conventional indigo,” explains Vichai Phromvanich, board member at Absolute Denim. “There was just one important difference: no aniline.”