Wed, Nov 21, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Greenpeace warns of chemical use by fashion brands

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Greenpeace activists protest in front of Zara’s store in Budapest yesterday.

Photo: AFP

An investigation on clothing from 20 global fashion brands showed that 63 percent of the garments contained hazardous nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) and a number contained plasticizers or other cancer-causing compounds, Greenpeace said yesterday.

The non-governmental organization made the announcement during the release of its new global investigative report on hazardous chemicals used in the textiles of garments sold at 20 popular global brands, including Armani, Benetton, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Esprit, Gap, H&M, Levi’s, Mango, Tommy Hilfiger and Zara.

Rose Lai (賴倩如), Greenpeace’s pollution prevention campaign director in Taiwan, said a total of 141 garments were purchased from 29 countries and regions around the world in April, including two items bought from stores in Taiwan — a pair of children’s pants by Zara and a men’s T-shirt by Levi’s.

The investigation revealed that detectable levels of NPEs were found in 89 of the garments.

“NPEs are often used as detergents or surfactants in the manufacturing process of textiles and can be washed away with water, but NPEs break down into nonylphenols [NP] in the water” Lai said. “NPs are known to be persistent and bio-accumulative toxic substances, which act as hormone disruptors in the body and also accumulate in the tissues of fish and other organisms.”

In addition, the tests discovered detectable levels of plasticizers in 31 garments, including high levels of toxic phthalates in four of the garments, and cancer-causing amines from the use of certain azo dyes in two.

Among the two items bought in Taiwan, a detectable level of NPE was found on the pants by Zara and three types of plasticizer — diethyl phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate — were found on the Levi’s T-shirt.

Although the levels of substances found in the clothes were not considered illegal in Taiwan, Lai said the major brands should bear social responsibility and eliminate the use of these chemicals.

In addition, the companies should “make public information about the use of the chemicals and wastewater discharges containing these substances, and also plan to phase out their use to achieve a goal of zero toxic discharges,” she said.

Lai said Greenpeace’s Detox campaign last year persuaded seven international sportswear brands to commit to finding solutions to cease using the toxic chemical substances in the manufacturing process by 2020, so the organization is also urging fashion brands to take responsibility for the public and the environment.

At present, regulations on the use of these toxic substances are very limited in Taiwan.

The Environmental Protection Administration only prohibits the use of NPE in the manufacture of household detergents and the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法) prohibits four kinds of plasticizers in the manufacture of items for children under 14 years old.

“The government should take a precautionary attitude and pay more attention to toxic pollution and enact stricter regulations for the full-scale management and control of these toxic substances,” Lai said.

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