Greenpeace finds toxic chemicals in branded clothing

Aug 23, 2011 by Sebastien Blanc

Traces of toxic chemicals harmful to the environment and to human health have been detected in products made by 14 top clothing manufacturers, Greenpeace said Tuesday.

Samples of clothing from top brands including Adidas, Uniqlo, Calvin Klein, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lacoste, Converse and Ralph Lauren were found to be tainted with the chemicals, known as nonylphenol ethoxylates, the watchdog said at the launch of its report "Dirty Laundry 2".

Greenpeace campaigner Li Yifang said that nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), commonly used as detergents in industries including the production of natural and synthetic textiles, were detected in two-thirds of the samples the group tested.

"NPEs break down to form nonylphenol, which has toxic, persistent and hormone-disrupting properties," Li told journalists in Beijing.

"It mimics female hormones, alters sexual development and affects reproductive systems."

Components of NPEs have been implicated in the widespread "feminisation" of male fish in parts of Europe and also in disrupting hormone processes in some mammals, according to the campaign group WWF.

Greenpeace said it purchased 78 branded clothing samples -- mostly made in China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines -- from 18 countries around the world and subjected them to scientific analysis.

"Even at low levels, it represents a big threat to the environment and ," Li said.

"This is not just a problem for the developing countries where textiles are made.

"Since residual levels of NPEs are released when clothes are washed, they are in effect creeping into countries where their use is banned."

Use of the chemicals is restricted in Europe.

As the report was released, activists stormed a flagship Adidas store in Hong Kong, demanding that the store eliminate in their products and urging would-be customers to "rethink".

Adidas also came under fire in separate Greenpeace report, "Dirty Laundry", released last month, which accused the manufacturers of well-known textile brands of polluting major rivers in China with chemical waste.

About a dozen Greenpeace activists dressed as referees created a stir as they descended on one of Adidas' busiest shops in the southern Chinese city.

They handed out campaign leaflets to customers while handing warning yellow cards to store staff, cautioning the brand to "play clean".

Eight samples of wastewater from two factories in the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas, identified as suppliers for the brands, contained "a cocktail of hazardous chemicals", the group said in last month's report.

Nike and Puma have since pledged since then to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in their products by 2020, but Adidas has not, according to spokeswoman Vivien Yau.

Adidas Hong Kong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But the company has previously said it used the Youngor Group -- one of the accused suppliers -- for garment cutting and sewing only, not to source fabrics, but had also asked Youngor to investigate Greenpeace's claims.

It added that it had a comprehensive policy on avoiding dangerous substances.

However, Yau said: "As the second biggest player in the sportswear industry, Adidas has an obligation to detoxify its global supply chain.

"So far, the brand has done nothing despite repeated requests from us. This is really unacceptable."

Explore further: Legume has potential to turn sandy soils into productive land

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nike, Adidas suppliers 'polluting China rivers'

Jul 13, 2011

Environmental campaigners on Wednesday accused suppliers to major clothing brands including Adidas and Nike of poisoning China's major rivers with hazardous chemicals linked to hormonal problems.

Plastic products leach toxic substances

May 16, 2011

Many plastic products contain hazardous chemicals that can leach to the surroundings. In studies conducted at the University of Gothenburg, a third of the tested plastic products released toxic substances, including 5 out ...

The greenest paper of them all

Mar 09, 2009

Wondering which paper towel or toilet paper is the greenest? The nonprofit advocacy group Greenpeace has released a pocket guide to paper products -- an updated version of the old National Resources Defense Council guide. ...

Greenpeace ranks 'greenest' electronics

Jan 06, 2011

Environmental group Greenpeace handed out grades Thursday to what it said were the world's "greenest" consumer electronics makers, as the annual gadget industry trade show opened here on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Finding innovative solutions for reducing CO2 emissions

2 hours ago

Today, the company Gaznat SA and EPFL signed an agreement for the creation of two new research chairs. The first one will study ways to seize carbon dioxide (CO2) at its production source and increase its value ...

Rolling lab tracks methane to its source

3 hours ago

McHenry Township, Lycoming County. Equipped with a gray box, a map and an SUV, Thomas Lauvaux and a team from Penn State's Department of Meteorology has been at it for hours, taking measurements and racking ...

What we've learned from the Boxing Day tsunami

3 hours ago

Much has been learned from the devastating experience of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and it's had lasting benefits for disaster management plans in Australia, according to forensic staff from the University of Adelaide.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GSwift7
not rated yet Aug 24, 2011
I dare them to do the same analysis on Greenpeace t-shirts. If they hadn't worked so hard to drive the textile industry out of the USA, this wouldn't be a problem. Oh the irony.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.