Greenpeace study warns of cancer-causing toxins in new clothing

A study commissioned by Greenpeace says potentially toxic chemicals that can affect human health and water quality are lurking in the new clothes consumers purchase.

The study tested 141 items of clothing purchased in April 2012. Some of the brands tested included Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, H&M and Gap.

“The chemicals found included high levels of toxic phthalates in four of the products, and cancer-causing amines from the use of azo dyes in two products. Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) were found in 89 of the 141 garments tested,” the report says.

Very high concentrations of phthalates, which are used in some soft plastics, were found in printed logos on products manufactured by Tommy Hilfiger, Armani and Victoria’s Secret. There is concern that high levels of phthalates can cause hormone disruptions, particularly in men.

Two of the garments tested, which were made for Zara, were found to have high levels of carcinogenic amines, which are used in some dyes. Those garments which were found to contain the high levels of amines were manufactured in Pakistan and sold in Lebanon and Hungary.

Nonylphenol ethoxylates were the most commonly found chemicals in clothing and the report says this toxin can get into the water system and build up in the food chain, with potentially hazardous effects on fish and other wildlife.

The reports blames the use of chemicals in clothing manufacturing on so-called “fast fashion,” which brings out more collections per season in an attempt to get consumers to purchase more. “These faster-changing fashion products are made possible by pressuring suppliers to deliver to ever-tighter deadlines that inevitably encourage the cutting of labour costs and environmentally irresponsible practices,” the report says.