Research commissioned by Greenpeace International has found traces of toxic chemicals in major clothing brands

Research commissioned by Greenpeace International has found traces of toxic chemicals in major clothing brands

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace is continuing its campaign against hazardous substances in the apparel supply chain with the release of new research that suggests traces of toxic chemicals have been found in clothing from brands including Adidas, H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Tests on garments and fabric-based shoes from 14 global brands - which also include Calvin Klein, Converse, Lacoste, Nike, Puma, Ralph Lauren and Uniqlo - revealed the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates. These break down to form nonylphenol, which has hormone-disrupting properties and is harmful to human health.

The tainted items were bought and manufactured in locations all over the world, the watchdog said, "demonstrating that the use and release of hazardous chemicals is a widespread and pervasive problem with serious, long-term and far-reaching consequences for people and wildlife."

"Our research shows that global clothing brands are responsible for the discharge of hazardous chemicals into waterways in China and across the world, as part of their manufacturing processes," says Yifang Li, toxic water campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

"People have a right to know about the chemicals that are present in the very fabric of their clothing and the harmful effects these chemicals have when released into the environment."

The test results were revealed at the launch of Greenpeace's second 'Dirty Laundry' report.

The findings showed that of the 78 articles tested, 52 were found to contain nonylphenol ethoxylates - and are seen as a snapshot of the kind of toxic chemicals that are being released by the textile industry into waterways all over the world.

They are also indicative "of a much wider problem," Greenpeace said.

Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are man-made chemicals often used as a surfactant in the textile industry. Where released untreated, they break down in rivers to form the persistent, toxic and hormone disrupting nonylnhenol (NP) that builds up in the food chain, and is hazardous even at very low levels. Even where wastewater containing NPEs is treated, this only speeds up the conversion into the toxic NP.

The first 'Dirty Laundry' report, which was released six weeks ago, detailed the results of a year-long study linking many of the same clothing brands to suppliers in China who were found to be releasing a cocktail of chemicals into the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas.

As a result of the subsequent global 'Detox' campaign organised by Greenpeace, which included demonstrations outside the companies' stores, both Nike and Puma have publicly committed to the elimination of all discharges of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products.

But the environmental group is still reprimanding Adidas over its slowness to make similar promises.

"Adidas and other leading clothing brands can no longer avoid the responsibility of ensuring that the environment, their customers and people across the world are no longer threatened by the release of hazardous chemicals," Li said.

Greenpeace is urging brands to remove these chemicals from their products by eliminating them from their production processes.

Otherwise, every time clothes containing these chemicals are washed, hazardous substances are released into waterways across the world.