Environmental campaign group Greenpeace is maintaining pressure on international clothing brands by exposing what it describes as a “smokescreen” for pollution in China.

The group’s latest report, “Toxic Threads: Putting Pollution on Parade”, describes how facilities producing textiles for high street brands are “exploiting” complex wastewater systems to conceal scrutiny of their manufacturing processes.

Greenpeace said analysis of wastewater from two of China’s biggest wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in coastal Zhejiang Province found chemicals which can cause cancer or are toxic to reproductive systems.

“Many international brands, such as Levi’s, source their products from facilities within such Industrial Zones, yet identifying whether individual suppliers are responsible for releasing hazardous substances in their effluent is almost impossible,” said Yifang Li, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

“This provides a convenient smokescreen for unacceptable environmental practices at individual facilities, including the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals, by the global textile industry.”

The group is calling on brands to set short-term timelines to eliminate the most hazardous chemicals, and to require their suppliers to publicly disclose releases of the chemicals.

“Both are key steps to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020 and Greenpeace will continue to expose brands that do not take responsibility for every stage of their supply chain,” said Martin Hojsik, Greenpeace International Detox Campaign co-ordinator.