Greenpeace yesterday said 61 percent of the brand-name children’s clothing items it tested were found to contain nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) that can break down into toxic elements in water.
All the waterproof items it tested revealed the presence of volatile perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are substances that can damage human health, it added.
According to the organization, a total of 82 pieces of children’s clothing obtained from 12 leading brands worldwide were put to the test between May and June last year, including three items bought in Taiwan.
Fifty samples tested positive for NPE, with the amounts ranging from 1.2 parts per million (ppm) to 17,000ppm, according to the report.
“A piece purchased in Taiwan from Burberry had 27ppm of NPE and an Adidas waterproof jacket 1.8ppm,” Greenpeace Taiwan detox campaigner Rose Lai (賴倩如) said.
“NPE are widely and commonly used in the textile industry. The chemical decomposes to form hazardous nonylphenols (NP) in an aquatic environment, and they are persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic to aquatic organisms,” she added.
“Toward the end of last year, the government set a maximum allowable limit of 1,000ppm for NPE and NP in clothes for children under the age of 12, while classifying the chemicals as Class 1 toxic chemical substances and banning them in household cleaning products,” Lai said.
According to the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法), Class 1 toxic chemical substances are chemical substances that are “not prone to decompose in the environment or that pollute the environment or endanger human health.”
“However, the limit is still too high,” Lai added. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, there is no such thing as ‘an allowable safe limit’ for toxic chemical substances. The more reasonable measure is for manufacturers to find a substitute for the chemicals, and this would require both government efforts in restricting their use and consumers’ awareness of the dangers they pose.”
The waterproof jacket purchased from Taiwan’s Adidas also contains 2,420ppb of volatile PFCs, which are considered persistent organic pollutants and associated with damage to the reproductive system and endocrine disruption.
Lai said that although the government has classified perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), an ionic PFC, as a Class 1 toxic chemical substance since 2010, there is no restriction of its use in certain electronics industries and the textile industry.
Other chemicals found in the samples include phthalates — which are widely used as plasticizers — organotins and antimony, according to the group’s report.
The group cautioned that children are more susceptible to the health risks posed by these chemicals, as they are at a developing stage when their bodies are prone to indiscriminately ingesting different kinds of chemicals.