Greenpeace International has carried out an investigation revealing the use of hazardous chemicals in the production of high street fashion. The investigation has included 20 global fashion brands, including Armani, Levi’s and Zara.
A total of 141 items of clothing were purchased in April 2012 in 29 countries and regions worldwide from authorized retailers. These were manufactured in at least 18 different countries, mainly in the Global South, according to the garments’ labels. However, the place of manufacture was not identified for 25, which is symptomatic of an industry that is not as transparent about its manufacturing practices as it should be, the report says. The garments, designed for men, women, and children, included jeans, trousers, t-shirts, dresses, and underwear, and were made from both artificial and natural fibers; 31 of the samples bore a plastisol print. This part of the fabric was tested for phthalates and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).
The chemicals found included high levels of toxic phthalates in four of the garments, and cancer-causing amines from the use of certain azo dyes in two garments. NPEs were found in 89 garments (just under two thirds of those tested), showing little difference from the results of the previous investigation into the presence of these substances in sports clothing that was conducted in 2011. In addition, the presence of many other different types of potentially hazardous industrial chemicals was discovered across a number of the products tested.
Brands with clothing samples containing NPEs at the highest concentrations – above 1,000 ppm – were C&A (one sample), Mango (three samples), Levi’s (two samples), Calvin Klein (one sample), Zara (one sample), Metersbonwe (two samples), Jack & Jones (one sample), and Marks & Spencer (one sample). Phthalates were detected in all 31 of the samples of the plastisol printed fabric. Very high concentrations were found in four of the samples, at levels of up to 37.6 percent by weight, indicating their deliberate use as plasticisers in the plastisol print. Of these four garments, two of the products were manufactured for Tommy Hilfiger (37.6 percent and 20 percent), while the other was for Armani (23.3 percent). The fourth sample, containing 0.52 percent, was manufactured for Victoria’s Secret.
The entire report can be seen on the official Greenpeace website.