Greenpeace finds toxic chemicals in top global clothing brands

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Greenpeace activists put on a performance in which they pretend to make clothes contaminated with chemicals represented by little monsters (R) during a protest in Budapest January 14. PHOTO: AFP

Vietnamese experts are urging the government to ban a toxic chemical after Greenpeace found it in various brands of children's clothes in 25 countries.

The environmental group released a report January 14 revealing the presence of hazardous, potentially hormone disrupting, chemicals in children's clothing made and sold by a wide range of brands, from budget to luxury, illustrating a serious problem throughout the industry.

It tested 82 items sold by 12 leading clothing brands, including Adidas, American Apparel, Burberry, Disney, Nike, and Puma.

The products were manufactured in at least 12 different countries/regions.

Tests found nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) in 61 percent of the samples, while more than 94 percent of products with plastisol prints contained phthalates a  chemical group often used in the textile industry as a softener and known to be toxic to reproductive development in mammals.

Every single brand tested was found to have some items containing hazardous chemicals: one Adidas swimsuit contained PFOAs at a level higher than the limit stated on the company's own Restricted Substance List, a Primark children's t-shirt contained 110,000mg/kg phthalates, and high levels of NPEs were found in products made by Burberry, Adidas and Disney.

Pham Duc Duong, director of the Textiles and Shoes Material Research Center in Hanoi, said: "Relevant authorities should issue technical regulations banning the use of chemicals like NPE in textile and garment, enforce surveillance, and notify consumers.

"We warn that people should wash new clothes because they may contain toxic chemicals, especially shirts and sweaters. Not all products with clear origin are safe."

Nguyen Van Thong, director of the Vietnam Textiles Institute, said NPE is allowed to be used in Vietnam, which only bans formaldehydes, azo compounds for dyeing, and heavy metals.

Lam Quoc Hung, head of the toxicity department at the Vietnam Food Administration, said NPEs are a group of surfactant chemicals that break down in the environment to form nonylphenols, which are known to be hormone disruptors.

It remains in the environment for a long time and builds up in the tissue of humans and animals, he said.

Chih An Lee, detox campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia said about the report: "This is a nightmare for parents everywhere looking to buy safe clothes for their children. These chemicals are in everything, from exclusive luxury designs to affordable fashion, and from T-shirts to shoes.

"What's worse, they are accumulating in our waterways, especially China's rivers and oceans, leaving a long lasting environmental mess for our future generations."

Greenpeace is calling on China the world's top textile producer and chemicals consumer to stop the use of hazardous chemicals in the textile industry.

Greenpeace's Detox campaign calls for major clothing brands like Burberry to commit to zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals by 2020.

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