You would think that by buying often expensive and well known brands of clothing and apparel, it would go some way to assuring you of quality and environmental safety.
A report released around a week ago by Greenpeace states some clothing and shoes sold by major clothing brands are manufactured using nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).
NPEs break down into Nonylphenol, a persistent chemical with hormone-disrupting properties that builds up in the food chain and is hazardous even at very low levels.
Nonylphenols are often found waste water streams across the globe. According to Wikipedia, it’s been detected both in the Great Lakes and in the region of New York City. I guess we now know where some of it is coming from – washing clothes that contain NPE’s.
The investigation commissioned by Greenpeace involved the analysis of 78 sports and recreational clothing items and shoes bearing the logos of 15 leading clothing brands.
NPEs were detected in clothing sold by 14 out of the 15 brands tested – and it wasn’t confined to items manufactured in China. The findings from this analysis build on two earlier studies published by Greenpeace. The full report, including the names of these brands, can be viewed here (PDF).
One of the things that particularly irks me about these findings is some of these brands have been called out for various nasty practices in the past; such as the use of child labor and forced labor, along with a multitude of other environmental issues. This is the type of behavior you would perhaps expect from bargain basement clothing manufacturers, not where consumers have paid a premium – but it appears that premium is just to have the company’s logo slapped on the item.
It makes the old saying of “you get what you pay for” seem like rubbish and I really wish people would stop seeing a brand name emblazoned across clothing as some sort of status symbol or assurance of quality.
While the Greenpeace report acknowledges a couple of the brands have recognised the issue and are working towards phasing out use of substances containing NPE’s (by 2020 mind you), it’s sickening that it takes these reports for action to occur.
These are companies with huge budgets for marketing and yet they don’t know about issues relating to what goes into their products?
The fashion industry is (generally speaking) as evil as the fossil fuel sector; … but I guess it says as much about we consumers as it does about them. Bear in mind too that the fashion industry is heavily based on perceived obsolescence; an approach that has wreaked havoc on the planet.
I remember my Dad would refuse to buy anything with a company logo on it; saying it was ridiculous to pay to advertise for a company. He was spot on.
Go beyond the label. Forget the label. It means nothing – particularly when it comes to the environment.