A Greenpeace report from 2013 investigates the amount of chemicals found in clothes from a vide variety of brands, specifically childrens clothes and shoes.
Executive Summary by Greenpeace East Asia Office
A new investigation by Greenpeace has found a broad range of hazardous chemicals in children’s clothing and footwear across a number of major clothing brands, including fast fashion, sportswear and luxury brands.
The study follows on from several previous investigations published by Greenpeace as part of its Detox campaign, which identified that hazardous chemicals are present in textile and leather products as a result of their use during manufacture. It confirms that the use of hazardous chemicals is still widespread – even during the manufacture of clothes for children and infants.
A total of 82 children’s textile products were purchased in May and June 2013 in 25 countries/regions worldwide from flagship stores, or from other authorised retailers. They were manufactured in at least twelve different countries/regions. The brands included fast fashion brands, such as American Apparel, C&A, Disney, GAP, H&M, Primark, and Uniqlo; sportswear brands, such as adidas, LiNing, Nike, and Puma; and the luxury brand Burberry.
The products were sent to the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter in the UK, from where they were dispatched to independent accredited laboratories. All products were investigated for the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs); certain products were also analysed for phthalates, organotins, per/poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs), or antimony, where the analysis was relevant for the type of product4. The analysis for antimony was carried out at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories.
All the hazardous chemicals mentioned above were detected in various products, above the technical limits of detection used in this study. Despite the fact that all the products purchased were for children and infants, there was no significant difference between the range and levels of hazardous chemicals found in this study compared to previous studies analysing those chemicals.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) were found in 50 of the 82 products analysed, at levels ranging from just above 1 mg/kg (the limit of detection) up to 17,000 mg/kg. This is equivalent to 61% of all products tested. All of the brands had at least one article where NPEs were detected. Brands with the highest levels of NPEs in their products (above 1,000 mg/kg) were C&A, Disney and American Apparel. Burberry was not far behind – with a level of 780 mg/kg in one product.
- Products from 10 of the 12 countries of manufacture contained NPEs.
- Phthalates were detected in 33 out of 35 samples with plastisol prints on them, two of which contained far higher concentrations of phthalates compared to the other articles tested; a Primark t-shirt sold in Germany contained 11% phthalates and a baby one-piece from American Apparel sold in the USA contained 0.6% phthalates. The levels of phthalates found in these two items would not be permitted in certain toys and childcare products under regulations for these products sold in the EU, which do not apply to clothing.
- Organotins were found in three articles with plastisol prints (of 21 tested) and three footwear articles (of five tested). The highest concentrations of organotins were found in three footwear products by Puma and adidas, with the highest levels in a Puma sport shoe. For all of these, the concentrations of the organotin DOT were higher than the Oeko-tex standard – which is a voluntary eco-label – and the standards set by adidas and Puma for DOT in their own Restricted Substances Lists.
- One or more PFC was detected in each of the 15 articles tested.
- Three adidas products, a toddler’s coat from Nike, and a jacket from Uniqlo had relatively high concentrations of PFCs (either for volatile or ionic).
- The analysis for ionic PFCs found PFOS in one adidas shoe and in Burberry swimwear.
- The concentration of the ionic PFC PFOA by area in one adidas swimsuit was far higher than the limit of 1 μg/m2 set by Norway from 2014 and even by adidas in its own Restricted Substances List.
- Antimony was detected in all 36 articles, all of which included fabrics composed of polyester, or a blend of polyester and other fibres.