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New ISO Test Method Published for the Determination of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Footwear Materials

SafeGuardSFootwear and Leather ProductsJanuary 18, 2022

ISO 16190:2021 was published in November 2021 for “Footwear – Critical substances potentially present in footwear and footwear components – Test method to quantitatively determine polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in footwear materials”. The 2021 edition supersedes the first edition of Technical Specification ISO/TS 16190:2013 and has been technically revised.

ISO 16190:2021 specifies a method to determine the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in footwear and footwear components. According to the standard, a test sample is extracted using toluene in an ultrasonic bath, an aliquot is then analyzed using a gas chromatograph with mass selective detector (GC-MS). Other changes compared to the 2013 edition include technical and/or editorial changes in the section of Terms and definitions, Reagents, Apparatus, Sample preparation, Procedure & Expression of results, Clause renumbering and addition of Annex A.

PAHs have been identified as being a great concern regarding potential exposure and adverse health effects on humans, thus legislation in major markets around the world restricts the presence of PAHs in finished products, such as:

  • In EU, the European Union Regulation (EU) No. 2018/1513 was adopted in October 2018, amending Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) that introduced entry 72 to restrict the use of certain substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR), category 1A or 1B in clothing and related accessories, other textiles and footwear products. The restriction includes eight individual carcinogenic PAHs which shall not be placed on the market if the substance is present in a concentration greater than specified.
  • In Germany, the German Product Safety Committee (Ausschuss für Produktsicherheit, AfPS) issued a new standard AfPS GS 2019:01 PAK on 15 PAHs limits in products that are subject to the GS Specification (GS-Mark) which came into effect on July 1st, 2020. The GS-Mark is a voluntary German certification mark regulated in the Product Safety Act (ProdSG), which should be based on the lowest possible PAH levels in order to reduce consumers’ exposure to them.

PAHs are a group of structurally related hydrocarbons. They persist in the environment and accumulate in food chains and can have an adverse effects on aquatic life and humans, including mutagenic, toxic, and/or carcinogenic properties. PAHs are often formed due to incomplete combustion of organic materials. Usually, PAHs are not considered chemical substances in the production of textile garment and footwear products, but are generally impurities in low-grade raw materials. Therefore, PAHs are typically present in finished products as impurities and are not intentionally added. In fact, PAHs are detected in some raw materials used to make plastic and rubber such as extender oils (used as a softener) and carbon black (used as a reinforcing agent). Consequently, they can be present in finished products, such as household items, tools, clothing, footwear, toys and childcare articles. Within the footwear producing industry, PAHs are often found in the outsoles of footwear and in printing pastes for screen prints.


  1. ISO 16190:2021
  2. SGS SafeGuardS No. 057/20

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