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Big name brands 'contribute to pollution'

Clothing companies using hazardous chemicals that are banned in many states

Activists washing clothes in public to prove their point (photo: Greenpeace) Activists washing clothes in public to prove their point (photo: Greenpeace)
  • Hernan Melencio, Manila
  • Philippines
  • March 21, 2012
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Environmental activists today said chemical residues in clothing sold by big name brands are washed into public waterways and contribute to pollution.

Members of Greenpeace held a rally near a river in Metro Manila where they launched a report entitled “Dirty Laundry: Reloaded” to support their claim that the chemicals in the clothing “enter our rivers, lakes and seas then break down into even more toxic and hormone-disrupting substances.”

The activists demonstrated, through a simulated washing of clothes, how toxic chemicals leach from consumer garments and into wash water. The demonstration was timed for tomorrow's World Water Day.

The Greenpeace study measured the amount of hazardous nonylphenol ethoxylates washed out during simulated standard domestic laundering conditions of 14 items.

“The results show that consumer brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein are unknowingly polluting the public water supplies in regions and countries around the world, including those where there are restrictions or bans on the use of these chemicals,” said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s toxics campaigner.

“While other countries try to improve measures protecting their citizens from hazardous chemicals, the Philippines is steps behind in terms of regulations on hazardous chemicals,” Baconguis said. “Nonylphenols, for example, are banned in Europe for their endocrine-disrupting properties, and yet it is not even included in the priority chemicals list in the Philippines.”

She said Filipinos are thus doubly vulnerable to toxic discharges, from manufacturing processes and from consumer end products. “This is the reason why we are calling for the institution of a mechanism respecting the public right-to-know about toxic discharges and for the textile industry to lead the move to safe alternatives to toxic chemicals,” Baconguis said.

Greenpeace challenged global clothing and footwear brands to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products by 2020. Greenpeace studies have led so far to public commitments by Nike, Adidas, Puma and Li-Ning, along with clothing retailers H&M and C&A, to “detoxify.”

Given the scale of the problem, Greenpeace is calling for more brands to join the “Detox challenge.”

“For the companies which have already committed, Greenpeace is demanding that they respond to the urgency of the situation by setting clear and ambitious short term deadlines for the elimination of the most hazardous chemicals,” the group said.
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