So what if our clothing is toxic!

Spurred on by the success of Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign, exposing the links between textile manufacturing facilities using toxic chemicals and water pollution, this new report further investigates 20 global fashion brands including Armani, Levi’s and Zara, and their use of hazardous chemicals

Now, I like Zara’s fashion and especially the way they fit. I also like Levi’s, Gap, Benetton, Calvin Klein style. Apart from being known for their good quality clothing and being the most popular brands today in the world of fast fashion, the clothes they sell also contain some good levels of toxicity…enough to be called harmful for the human body – so says the recent report by Greenpeace.

This report found high levels of toxic phthalates, cancer causing amines and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) in these brands – which is unacceptable. This will call for some work to be done by these brands.

But my first reaction is: So what if Zara’s or Benetton’s clothing is toxic! The air that I breathe in Delhi is way too much toxic to give me much more immediate negative health effects than my clothing…as if we never knew clothes aren’t already are!

C’mon, we got way too many other concerns with immediate implications than wearing so called toxic clothes.

Greenpeace is talking about high street fashion popular brands that are always in the public eye. Sooner or later, this exposure had to happen. But what about the cheap clothing that gets manufactured in India, Bangladesh and China – not for these brands but for local stores and local markets that adorn the cheap-street fashion worn by people who can’t afford branded clothing. You won’t even dare run tests on those cause you won’t have any tools calibrated to measure the kinds of levels of toxicity present in those!

The world produces more than 80 billion garments a year and they get discarded fairly quickly with the quick turnaround times to meet the seasonal demands of loyal consumers. This causes suppliers to resort to environmentally disruptive methods and to cut corners to meet those demands. The question to tackle is age-old: Who creates the demand? It’s but screaming obvious that marketers and companies create the demand and when that happens, they put it back on the naive consumer…saying that it is they who want new clothes every season! Aren’t we mature to know what’s the truth? But we want to ignore that and keep fulfilling our desires to be with times – the times that are actually created by companies to buy more. But companies won’t ask consumers to consume less, or will they? I doubt that time will ever come.

Anyhow, Greenpeace, in its report lays out 2 steps for the companies to ‘Detox our clothes”:

  • Adopt a credible commitment to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals from the supply chains and products by 2020
  • Walk the talk by commiting to disclose, at regular intervals, information on release of toxic chemicals used and establishing clear and ambitious deadlines for elimination of priority substances

To know more, access the full report here


4 thoughts on “So what if our clothing is toxic!

  1. The fact that our lifespans are increasing despite all the nasty chemicals we are exposed is a testament to our immune system! And although I agree with you that the “cheaper” products are probably more toxic than anything produced by the larger brands, I see this report as important. If the major brands find new, inexpensive ways to dye their clothing without toxic chemicals, the smaller brands can hopefully follow suit.

    But we still need to reduce our consumption!

    1. Sure, leaders need to set examples…but what concerns me is the way such issues are never made transparent by the companies themselves. If such big brands need “whistle-blowers” or organizations like Greenpeace by bringing out such reports, then things are definitely not right. Companies then become re-active rather than being pro-active! I am currently reading book by Pawan Sukhdev called Corporation 2020 and it lays down how a company of the year 2020 will and should look like… the good part is change will come…the sad part is it needs to be pressured by concerned groups. I really recommend this book – a good read of how and why the current DNA of companies developed overtime.
      And sure, consumption has to reduce. Patagonia comes to mind – which even took the liberty to take out an ad campaign: “Don’t buy this jacket – unless you really need it”.

      1. Gotta love Patagonia! And if you are interested, the creator of Patagonia has written a book about the creation of the company that I think you would love. It is called “Let My People Go Surfing”.
        Regarding the fact that corporations are not open about what is in their products: this is why I cringe when people talk about “getting rid of regulations”. A corporation does what it has to in order to be profitable. Environmental or health considerations only come into the equation for them if it is required by regulations. Even then, they usually try to weasel their way around those regulations!

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