Textile industry and water pollution – brought to you by some of your favorite retailers.

14 11 2012

In 2011 Greenpeace published two reports: one investigating the discharge of hazardous substances from textiles manufacturing in China linked to major clothing and sportswear companies (Dirty Laundry), and another detailing the presence of NPEs in clothing and footwear of 15 leading brands (Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry). With the publication of these reports Greenpeace challenged global brands to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products by 2020.

The Detox Campaign, as it is now known,  is especially targeting Chinese manufacturers.  With nearly 50,000 textile factories, the “factory of the world” is in fact the first victim of textile water pollution, prompting even the government to face up to the problem. “China is moving toward legislation where each company is responsible for its wastewater,” said Ulrike Kallee. “Awareness is now very high.”

The man-made chemical by-products of the textile industry are shown to have long-term effects on the environment and potentially devastating impacts on human and animal life. Furthermore, when testing clothing from 15 corporate brands, Greenpeace found that the chemicals used in the textile production process continue to be released when contaminated clothing is purchased and washed by consumers across the world.  These tests demonstrate the truly global danger posed by these toxic chemicals as they are released into rivers and water sources from the point of production to the consumer.

I don’t know why there is not an outcry about the clothing which is continuing to contaminate washwater – doesn’t it occur to people that  clothing contains chemicals which are being absorbed by our skin and causing us harm?  For that matter, think about the fabrics we subject ourselves to intimately every day, like sheets and towels.  Where is the disconnect here?

Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign is helping create a greener economy by challenging major global brands to rid their textile production processes of hazardous chemicals. The Detox Campaign has already successfully demonstrated the power of grassroots activism and social media in pressuring corporations to clean up their production practices.  Only months into the Detox Campaign, major retailers H&M, Puma, Adidas and Nike committed to eliminating discharges of hazardous chemicals across their supply chains by 202; most recently Marks & Spencer joined the group. In addition to pressuring corporations to adopt greener production practices, Greenpeace is pursuing legislative changes within the textile industries in several Asian countries and the European Union in order to protect rivers and the communities and ecosystems they support.

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Toxic textiles by Walt Disney

27 01 2011

The Walt Disney Corporation,  in a letter to Greenpeace in 2003, said that “the Walt Disney Company is always concerned with quality and safety”.

Greenpeace decided to test that statement, so – as part of their campaign to show how dangerous chemicals are out of control, turning up in house dust, in household products, food, rain water, in our clothes……and ultimately in our bodies – they decided to test Disney’s childrenswear for the presence of toxic chemicals.

Disney garments, including T-shirts, pajamas and underwear, were bought in retail outlets in 19 different countries around the world and  analyzed  by the independent laboratory Eurofins, an international group of companies which provides testing, certification and consulting on the quality and safety of products and one of the largest scientific testing laboratories in the world. 

Greenpeace asked Eurofins to test the Disney childrenswear for:

1.      Phthalates

2.      Alkylphenol ethoxylates

3.      Organotins

4.      Lead

5.      Cadmium

6.      Formaldehyde

We don’t have the space to fill you in on why each of these six chemicals is of grave concern, but please believe us – they’re not good.  Any one of these chemicals can interfere with a child’s neurological development, for example, or can set the path for a cascade of health problems as they age.   

This is what they found:

1.      Phthalates:  Found in all the garments tested, from 1.4 mg/kg to 200,000 mg/kg – or more than 20% of the weight of the sample.

2.      Alkylphenol ethoxylates: Found in all the garments tested, in levels ranging from 34.1 mg/kg to 1,700 mg/kg

3.      Organotins:  found in 9 of the 16 products tested; the Donald Duck T shirt from The Netherlands had 474 micrograms/kg

4.      Lead:  Found in all the products tested, ranging from 0.14 mg/kg to 2,600 mg/kg for a Princess T shirt from Canada.  With Denmark’s new laws on the use, marketing and manufacture of lead   and products containing lead, the Princess T shirt from Canada would be illegal on the Danish market.  Canada has set a limit of 600 mg/kg for children’s jewelry containing lead – why not Disney T shirts?

5.      Cadmiun:  Identified in 14 of the 18 products tested, ranging from 0.0069 mg/kg in the Finding Nemo T shirt bought in the UK to 38 mg/kg in the Belgian Mickey Mouse T shirt.

6.      Formaldehyde:  Found in 8 of the 15 products tested for this chemical in levels ranging from 23 mg/kg to 1,100 mg/kg.

One sample stands out: a German Winnie the Pooh PVC raincoat.  This contained an astounding 320,000 mg/kg of total phthalates, or 32% by weight of the raincoat!  This raincoat also contained 1,129 micrograms/kg organotins.

Greenpeace urged Disney to take responsibility for avoiding or substituting harmful chemicals in their products and to demand that their licensees implement a chemical policy that protects children’s heath.  Disney reacted by stating that their products are in line with the law.    The only action taken was to put labels on some products with a warning that those clothes contain toxic chemicals – but  only in the UK (which has more stringent laws regarding chemical use than does the US), and only on a few items.  Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner Oliver Knowles said, “”Their complete disregard for children’s health smacks of a Mickey Mouse company, and it’s now down to us to let the public know that these pyjamas contain dangerous chemicals.

“Perhaps it would be more apt if Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase became   “To infertility and beyond!”

SAFbaby.com has asked a variety of children’s clothing companies whether their clothing contained formaldehyde.  Disney responded that they comply with all Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations.   But (as SAFbaby commented): CPSC has NO regulations set for formaldehyde levels, so that reply was not helpful to us in the slightest.  We are not impressed with their follow up response to us.

Disney’s refusal to be pro active in insisting their suppliers phase out hazardous substances demonstrates why voluntary initiatives don’t work.  We support Greenpeace in asking that legislation  to require mandatory substitution of hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives be put in place.

Read the Greenpeace report on Disney’s childrenswear here.