The WECF warns that some chemicals widely used in the production of dry goods may be very damaging for health

The Women in Europe for a Common Future Organization (WECF) published in October 2013 a report on the textile industry and the current issue of dangerous chemicals presence in clothes. Textiles manufacturing is indeed associated with huge consumption of chemicals, some of which are hazardous or potentially hazardous for people’s health.

This concern is even more urgent because researches demonstrated that children are more in danger than adults: fetus, newborns, infants and children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of chemicals, and this could lead then to suffer any kind of life-long disease, such as cancer. Apart from children, even adult workers and consumers are affected by polluted garments.

The lack of transparency in the textile production chain affects directly producers, the people working at the factories. In the main dry goods exporting countries, such as India or Bangladesh, chemical use restrictions are not the same as those in Europe; rather there is a substantial lack of them. Chemical substances which have been demonstrated to be hazardous for the health are regularly employed in less developed countries, harming workers, who in addition are underpaid and are compelled to work in unsafe working conditions.

In western countries, even though restrictions are followed up, people get in touch with harmful chemicals because of the clothes coming from foreign countries. Final garments may contain, whether intentionally or not, several toxic substances. Researches shown that the most common are: pre/poly-flourinated chemicals (PFCs), antibacterial chemicals, phthalates, heavy metals, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and non-ylphenols (NPs). The damaging consequences of the exposure to these substances are explained in the paper.

The paper also explains how pollution develops throughout the whole textiles production chain. It points out the lack of legislation regarding some pollutants: the EU ban is valid only for some substances which are compounds of only some products. There is also a defect of communication of the materials used within the production process: companies do not communicate on the chemical content of their articles, because this may put at risk sales.

The executive summary of the WECF paper also provides a complete list of the most common textile labels in Europe, which may help the consumer in choosing harmful chemical-free products.