Harmful chemicals in textiles

Harmful chemicals in textiles

Greenpeace: Harmful chemicals in the majority of clothing

The fashion industry uses numerous harmful chemicals to this day, which can also be found in the brand manufacturers' products sold in Germany, according to the latest Greenpeace study. The environmental protection organization warns that chemicals are a serious threat to the environment and the health of the population in the producing countries.

Greenpeace's product tests also included residues of harmful chemicals in most brands such as Adidas, Calvin Klein, Lacoste and Nike. When tested for the chemical nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), it was detected in two thirds of the clothing, reports Greenpeace. Since nonylphenol ethoxylates are broken down into the toxic nonylphenol, which accumulates in the environment and thus also enters the food chain, greenpeace warns, particularly in the producing countries, that there is a significant health risk to the population and far-reaching damage to the environment. The environmental protection organization therefore asked the fashion brands to finally stop using the harmful chemicals

Two thirds of textile articles are chemicals polluted In general, the textile industry is extremely polluting, since around 100 liters of water are used to manufacture every kilogram of fabric, Greenpeace explained. Added to this is the use of potentially harmful substances, such as NPE. The environmental protection organization has therefore examined 78 branded articles from 13 different production countries for NPE. The terrifying result: Around two thirds of the samples (52 pieces) showed NPE. This is how the harmful chemical reaches the store shelves in Germany as well, as the Converse, Kappa, Puma and Li Ning NPE-containing articles examined in Germany show. However, the values ​​measured in T-shirts, sneakers and other products from the brand manufacturers overall remain within the health-safe range, explained Greenpeace.

Toxic chemicals endanger the environment and health. However, according to the environmental protection organization, the NPE values ​​to be demonstrated in the end products are an indication of the massive use of the harmful chemical in the manufacture of textile products. According to the experts, this is particularly worrying, since NPE is broken down into the toxic nonylphenol, which, even in low concentrations, can lead to serious health problems. For example, most fashion brands endanger not only the environment but also the health of the population in the producing countries through the use of the chemical NPE. Because the toxic nonylphenol reaches the rivers and lakes with the wastewater from the factories. Here, the increased concentration of the chemical can not only cause the death of numerous animal species (e.g. fish, mussels), but the nonylphenol also enters the food chain in this way.

Brand manufacturers use substances that are harmful to health and the environment According to Greenpeace, products from the brand manufacturers Adidas, Calvin Klein, Converse, G-Star-Raw, H&M, Lacoste, Nike, Kappa and Puma were contaminated with NPE. According to Greenpeace, the fashion chain Gap is the only textile manufacturer to do without NPE. According to the Greenpeace chemistry expert Manfred Santen, the current study results also show that "the use of hazardous chemicals in the textile industry is not limited to China." The use of substances that are potentially harmful to health and the environment is explained in the "Textile industry is a global problem" Manfred Santen. In view of the relatively sharp rise in Chinese wages, numerous textile manufacturers have moved their production to poorer countries such as Bangladesh or Pakistan, said the Greenpeace expert. Here the workforce is even cheaper and environmental protection standards are even lower than in China, Greenpeace reported. In the European Union (EU), the use of NPE has been subject to strict regulations since 2003.

Reducing the use of chemicals in the textile industry According to Greenpeace, the harmful chemical NPE is used primarily as a detergent in China, Bangladesh and Vietnam. However, NPE is still used on a large scale by textile manufacturers in Turkey. Turkey is one of the most important production countries for textile goods in Europe. According to Greenpeace, the use of NPE in the above-mentioned countries is not the only significant risk to people and the environment. The textile industry relies on a whole chemical cocktail in the production of fashion items. Environmental protection organizations such as Greenpeace have therefore been demanding for years to drastically reduce the use of toxic chemicals in the textile industry. However, the fashion brands have so far been unwilling to ban the harmful substances from their production.

First brand manufacturers announce waiver of chemicals Greenpeace has therefore devoted itself to the use of the controversial chemicals in a current campaign in order to raise public awareness of the difficulties in the producing countries. The environmental protection organization last pointed out in July that two Chinese rivers (Yangtze, Pearl River) were contaminated by the local textile factories. The Greenpeace experts were able to detect numerous different environmental toxins in the river deltas of the two rivers that had come into the river from the factories. According to Greenpeace, the textile factories also serve well-known fashion manufacturers for production. In response to the Greenpeace campaign, the manufacturers Nike and Puma have already announced that they will switch over their entire production by 2020 and completely dispense with the harmful chemicals. (fp)

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Image: Rainer Sturm /

Author and source information

Video: Killer Clothes by Brian Clement (November 2020).