A few months ago the Executive Committee of IULTCS, the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies, appointed Gustavo Adriàn Defeo as chairman of the IUF Commission which is responsible for preparing the methods to test the resistance of leather. Gustavo Defeo, who is of Argentine origin but has been resident in Italy for many years, is a great expert in colour physics and internationally known for his intense academic and research activity.

Gustavo Adriàn Defeo

Mr. Defeo could you please explain what the IULTCS-IUF Commission is about?

“IULTCS commissions are international working groups made up of experts in various types of testing methods and analyses on leather and tanning chemicals, whether they are chemical, physicomechanical, fastness, metrological or for terminology definition, among others. The IUF commission (fastness testing methods) is one of the three commissions responsible for defining the testing methods for the joint ISO-IUF standards of leather fastness. Our responsibility is to keep the existing standards up-to-date and issue new ones in case of need to evaluate the resistance of the hides according to market requirements. The methods are regularly revised in order to refine them based on the experience of the testing laboratories, and to update them to technological innovation. Some of the best known IUF tests are IUF 402 (Colour fastness of leather to Xenon arc light, which carries the designation ISO 105-B02: 2014, IUF 426 (Colour fastness to sweat) or ISO 11641: 2013, IUF 450 (colour fastness to rubbing cycles) or ISO 11640: 2018, or the very recent IUF 474 (Leather – colour measurement and colour differences) or ISO 22700: 2019 among others. In addition to the IUF commission, there are the IUC commissions for chemical analysis standards and the IUP commission for physical-mechanical tests. Each approved standard is called up for review every 5 years to verify its validity”.

We know that this is not your only task in this field…

“In addition to the IUF commission my assignment was extended to Convenor of the CEN TC 289 WG3 commission, in this case on behalf of the European Commission for Standardisation. In fact, both commissions deal with fastness tests on leather, but in the case of the latter we are also responsible for metrological tests, such as the measurement of the leather area, which is fundamental in the commercial context of our sector. Both positions have the support of UNI (Italian Standardisation Body) with Dr. Paola Visintin who helps us as secretary in compliance with protocols and regulatory formalities”.

What are the main objectives of these commissions?

“The commissions in which I participate at this time have many fundamental issues to evaluate, both as new developments of the methods necessary to comply with the REACH updates, and for the inevitable technological advancement that leads to the revision of existing ones. For the ISO-IUF committee, one of the basic issues concerns the standardisation of the visual assessment of colour differences currently considered by the set of ISO 105 standards (of textile origin), and among these the definition of lighting conditions for quality control. The evolution of lighting systems where the incandescent – fluorescent – LED transition as a new frontier leads us to re-evaluate the definitions of the new standards based on radiometric parameters.
As for chemical tests we must consider the latest limitations imposed by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) and consider the development of new methods for the quantification of bisphenols, methyl polysiloxanes, non-ionic perfluorinates, fluoropolymers and the revision of methods for the quantification of hexavalent chromium”.

What is the Commission’s work in this field?

“Our work consists in interpreting the changes in the sector and the new critical issues that gradually emerge. We need to be updated on the technological developments that can influence the tanning world, responding to the new requirements imposed by legal restrictions. We must have the ability to anticipate the changes in our sector by defining clear, transparent rules that leave no room for doubt in the evaluation of legal and mandatory parameters of the leather quality”.

Why is it so important to establish common testing methods for the industry?

“International standards must establish clear and unambiguous methods to be applied in assessing compliance with legal requirements and/or contractual parameters between customers and suppliers. The rules and compliance with the methods contained therein, and the scope of application must ensure in each country the guarantee of repeatable results for the leather trade. Unfortunately, norms are not always applied in the right way, sometimes they are forced to reach limits where the uncertainty is too high or with their free adaptation in the evaluation of substances not considered in their original application purpose, leading only to market confusion. Our commissions are always available for a constructive dialogue with those who use the norms as feedback for future revisions that bring clarity and universality in their application”.