Toxic dyes used in the creation of high fashion clothing are contributing to a global pollution crisis that will have deadly consequences for both the environment and human health. A study performed by Greenpeace involved examining the clothing from 20 international fashion labels to determine the chemicals used during their manufacturing process. The results showed that the vast majority tested positive for a lethal cocktail of chemicals such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, which breakdown to form toxic hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic phthalates which are hazardous to unborn fetuses, and a carcinogenic compound known as ‘amine’. Greenpeace also collected water samples from rivers located near textile factories in Indonesia where a large portion of the clothing is made, and found that waste dumped into the rivers has raised the water’s PH level to 14. Such a high alkaline level will burn human skin on contact, kill all aquatic life, and have a devastating effect on the local fishing industry and surrounding environment.
Greenpeace are demanding that major fashion houses such as Valentino, Levis, Zara, Diesel and many others take responsibility for their shady business practices and remove the toxic dyes and cleaning agents from their manufacturing process. The campaign has seen celebrities, models, designers and activists come together to challenge the large corporations and force them to make changes that will protect the planet. The clothing companies have been given a deadline of 2020 (Huh? Why so long?) to meet the demands set by the campaign. These include phasing out the use of harmful chemicals during manufacturing, informing local communities of exactly what waste products are being released into their surrounding rivers and streams, and publicly acknowledging that there is no such thing as a ‘safe amount’ of toxic chemical exposure.
What Toxins Are The Clothing Companies Releasing Into The Environment?
Certain dyes and pigments used in the creation of textiles contain heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium. These build up in the body over time and can cause irreversible damage to the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Pentachlorophenol is used as a biocide in the textile industry and is highly toxic to both humans and wildlife. Chlorobenzenes are used as biocides and as a solvent, and affect the liver, thyroid and central nervous system. These and many more dangerous chemicals are all used during the manufacturing process, and traces of these chemicals then find their way into the local environment after factories dump their waste into nearby waterways. Traces of these chemicals are still present on the garments when they reach the end buyer, and are then released during washing, making this issue a global concern.
Effects On The Planet
As well as destroying local aquatic life and poisoning the rivers and streams, these toxic chemicals gradually find their way around the planet and into the drinking water. They also show up in the food chain as fish that live in the contaminated waters are caught and sold for human consumption. Clothes and other textiles such as linens, sheets and towels containing these chemicals are shipped all over the world and are sold in every type store from designer brands to discount retailers. They are extremely carcinogenic and cause numerous health problems in humans.
The Detox Campaign
Greenpeace launched the ‘Detox Campaign’ in 2011 that challenged major brands to ditch the toxic chemicals and lead the way in creating environmentally friendly fashion. This was followed up last month with the ‘Detox Catwalk’ that assessed the progress that certain brands have made in fulfilling their promise to end their use of dangerous substances. The Greenpeace website lists all the companies that are leading the way in cleaning up their act, and brands such as Esprit, United Colours of Benetton and H&M have already phased out the hazardous chemicals from their manufacturing process. Other brands such as Gap, Giorgio Armani, and Diesel have yet to make any commitment to the detox campaign and do not acknowledge the presence of toxic chemicals in their products.
How You Can Get Involved
Greenpeace is calling on all health conscious shoppers to boycott the stores and brands that have not yet begun to take responsibility for their actions or take steps to reverse the damage they have already caused. Supporters can also visit the Greenpeace website and sign the detox fashion manifesto that already includes a selection of models, designers, TV personalities and celebrities that have lent their name to the cause. Greenpeace also urge consumers to buy more second-hand and vintage clothing to cut down on the demand for new fashions and repair and recycle your old clothing wherever possible.
Alternative Fabrics And Clothing Choices
There is a wide range of environmentally friendly clothing available from various environmentally conscious clothing stores, and online retailers. Natural fibers made from hemp, organic soy, cotton and bamboo can all be used to create attractive, comfortable clothing that does not require the use of toxic chemicals in its manufacture. Natural food coloring can be used to dye fabrics, and be sure to read the labels to ensure that all the materials used are from organic farms that do not use pesticides or crops grown using GMOs.
Western consumerism has led to a global pollution crisis as manufacturers struggle to keep up with the ever increasing demand for new products. This has led to putting profit and production speed before quality and environmental responsibility. Add to that the atmosphere in countries such as China, whose textile manufacturing industry supplies merchandise heavily contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals, and the result leads to toxicity in human health and to the earth. Buying locally made, organic clothing is the best form of protest against the large clothing corporations who will only begin to sit up and take notice of the demands of the people once their profit margin is affected.
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