A recent Greenpeace report has, yet again, demonstrated how little we know about where our clothes are from, what they are made from and how they are made.

It is all too easy to get engrossed in fashion. The number of high street shops, online stores, blogs, magazines, shows, pictures and icons around make it impossible to ignore. Last summer the fashion industry was valued at almost £21bn and to see how quickly fashions change, and how quickly people are willing to change with them, it is easy to see how.

Greenpeace, however, goes in and out of fashion and many people wouldn’t spend a penny for it. When they are protesting against brutal seal attacks or the abuse of cuddly rabbits by pharmaceutical companies then they make headlines. Their popularity soars as the common person can jump on their outraged horse and liberally scatter the internet, newspapers and conversations with their fashionable endorsements.

…water scarcity and water pollution are two of peoples biggest environmental concerns…

When, however, they criticise the practices that bring cheap and fashionable clothes to the high street. Everything goes quiet.

The report in question, Dirty Laundry, focuses on two textile facilities in China that have been pumping hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties into the water supply. Water is a key resource and also a major problem, water scarcity and water pollution are two of people’s biggest environmental concerns.

     These factories were found to be discharging alkylphenol and perfluorinated, chemicals which are hazardous at low levels, disrupt human hormones and decay very slowly in the environment. They are regulated in the EU but not in China.

We, as consumers, are perpetuating the problem.

A quick glance at this scientific jargon leads you to the conclusion that China needs better regulation but that it is a world away from your own.  However, a survey of the factories showed that they supplied textiles to Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Converse, Lacoste, Nike, Puma and H&M.

These names are far closer to home and their labels may even be rubbing against you as you read this. We, as consumers, are perpetuating the problem. To be clear, many of the brands mentioned deny using the wet processes that are the biggest problem here but neither do they use a comprehensive chemicals management policy.

You may not know what went into the clothes you are wearing, I don’t, but it is important that someone does and that the environmental outputs of these companies are transparent and regulated. There is far more detail and analysis in the report and I recommend that you read it, or at least the executive summary. It is only short but may make you think about some of the real costs of that cheap, cheap dress.

Image courtesy of Greenpeace


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