Toxic chemicals have been found in children’s clothes sold by Burberry, Adidas, Disney and nine other brands, according to a report published by the campaign group Greenpeace. These chemicals can be ingested via hand-to-mouth contact, and then affect development of reproductive organs and the liver.
In May and April of 2013, Greenpeace bought 82 items of children’s and infant’s clothing in 25 different countries. The samples had been made in 12 countries, with one-third made in China. All were bought in the brand’s own shops or from authorised resellers, then immediately sealed and dispatched to a Greenpeace lab in the UK for testing.
The highest level of organotins (organic tin compounds) were found in a Puma child’s shoe made in Indonesia and bought in China, while the second highest level was in an Adidas shoe, also made in Indonesia but purchased in Hong Kong.
Organotins have been proven to have a major impact on children’s development, damaging the liver and kidneys, and potentially doing harm to metabolic processes such as blood production and the enzyme system.
Swimwear from Adidas and Burberry was found to contain perflorinated compounds (PFCs). These substances are restricted by international agreement and cause reduced fertility and immune system disorders.
Zhang Miao, pollution campaigns head at Greenpeace, added that these toxins could harm fish populations as well as the children themselves. During the manufacturing process large quantities of toxic substances, including endocrine disruptors, are discharged into rivers and oceans. Endocrine disruptors and PFCs have been found in catfish and carp caught in the Yangtze.
The EU banned PFCs and other toxic chemicals years ago, but the investigation found that use continues in the textile industries of major clothing-manufacturing countries such as China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Mexico.
Greenpeace has been campaigning for three years for the industry to deal with this problem: to date 18 brand names have committed to zero-emissions of these substances by 2020. Brands including Mango and Zara have started publishing pollution data from their suppliers; some, such as Adidas, have despite their promises taken no real action.
Burberry, Adidas and Disney have all denied that their clothes are a health risk.