Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Clothes, Clothing, Brand, Customers, Business, Products, Factory, Quality

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/03/19


Toxic Clothing
Several reports reveal that the clothing produced and distributed by popular brands have toxic chemicals in them. Luisa (2011) reported that fourteen famous brands do not conduct tests on the chemical content of textile they use to manufacture clothing. Based on the reports, traces of toxic chemicals found in clothing products include nonylphenol, which comes from the nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) compound used by companies to wash textiles. Nonylphenol is detrimental to the health of human beings because it disrupts the hormonal balance and affects sexual development. Many research studies were also conducted to test the effect of NPEs on animal species. Results of research show that NPEs duplicate female hormones, which are then absorbed by male fish. The result of which is the ‘feminization’ of this species. This disruption in the hormonal make-up of species would likely apply to human beings. Scientists warn against this possibility because people come into direct contact with toxic clothing with their skin. Consequently, our skin would easily absorb the toxins and with the introduction of these chemicals in our body, these would lead to hormonal imbalance. This information causes alarm because it changes human growth and development, especially among girls and women.
Greenpeace, the organization responsible for conducting the research studies reported that most of the clothing samples that tested positive were made in Asian countries such as China, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam as outsourced products (Luisa, 2011). Based on the outcomes of the analysis of clothing samples, 2/3 of the sample contained NPEs. If this information is not alarming enough for some, other information revealed in the report would influence the way that customers view the brands they patronize. Based on Greenpeace’s report, some of the popular brands that distribute clothing that contain NPEs include Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Converse, Gap, H&M, Lacoste, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Uniqlo among others. This is a significant aspect of the report because it reveals the brand names that do not look into the content or material of their products. This could be grounds for questioning ethical practices and social responsibility in these companies.
Addressing the issue is highly important because the use of NPEs not only put people working at factories in developing countries at risk but also the health of consumers around the world. It is important to note that this problem could be avoided with strict implementation of laws and implementations that set standards on the quality of clothing imported to other countries. Despite the existence of laws and regulations that prescribe standards and quality of clothing being manufactured and exported to other countries, clothing from the aforementioned brands with toxic compounds still end up being shipped to stores around the world and sold to consumers.
NPEs are not the only toxic substances used to produce textile. The component of dye used in textile production also includes toxic chemicals. Clothing factories need to use dye to make products appealing to consumers. Color is one of the main selling points of clothing to consumers. For this reason, textile companies use different types of dye to produce colorful clothing. Nonetheless, dye used to color textiles include harmful substances such as napthol, nitrates, and sulphur among others. Other highly toxic metals used in the production of textile include arsenic, mercury, and cobalt (Kant, 22).
Another cause of alarm is the impact of clothing factories on the environment. Greenpeace expanded their research to study the nature of operations in clothing factories in the developing world where production of clothing for popular brands are being outsourced. Results of Greenpeace’s study show that factories not only use large amounts of water, which could be detrimental to the world’s water supply, but also release large amounts of toxic waste into nearby land and bodies of water (Kant, 22; “Waste Not”).

Solutions to Problems

Clothing brands must be at the forefront of addressing this issue. The production of clothing begins with these brands’ mandate. To meet the demands of consumers, many clothing brands decide to outsource their products in developing countries where the cost of labor and resources is significantly lower than in the developed world. In recent years, clothing brands expressed their commitment to address the issue. Nonetheless, their efforts are inadequate to fully control the situation and halt the production and distribution of toxic clothing around the world. Based on recent reports about clothing brands’ initiatives, some including Nike stated that they would eliminate the use of chemicals but in a gradual manner. Nike stated that it would only be able to fully stop using chemicals by 2020, which is five years from now. Between now and 2020, clothing factory operations would have led to the release of toxic chemicals into the environment and use of NPEs in clothing produced for global consumption.
Governments should also support the mandate of clothing brands. Part of this is the development and implementation of policies that set guidelines for practices in factories. These laws and policies must aim for the reduction and prevention of the use of any substance in the production of clothing with NPE content or other toxic chemicals that could harm factory workers and customers. Furthermore, government laws must also prescribe punishment or sanctions to factories and clothing brands that would violate safety and environmental policies implemented by the state. Governments would also play a role in controlling the distribution of clothing that contain toxic chemicals. The state may do so by employing officials and departments to conduct quality checks of products being imported from other countries. The assessment or quality checks of imports must focus on determining if products are highly toxic or not. Clothing products that do not pass inspection must either be destroyed to prevent it from being sold in the black market or returned to their country of origin. Implementing regulation and inspection of goods by clothing brands is highly necessary to control the distribution of toxic clothing to the market.
Stakeholders may also engage or participate in solving the issue by becoming instruments in raising awareness about the impact of using clothing sold by ‘big name’ brands. As formerly noted, many clothing brands publicly communicate their intention and initiatives to reduce the amount of resources and chemicals they use to produce their products. Nonetheless, these brands do not follow through their promise. Stakeholders, particularly interest or activist groups and other non-government organizations that are concerned with the safety of factory workers, the environment, or consumers, must also take a stand against clothing brands. The foregoing stakeholders may do so by continuing to spread awareness about risky and hazardous practices condoned by clothing brands.
Consumers must also take a stand. It is important that the consumers themselves show clothing brands that the latter’s practices are unacceptable. One of the ways that consumers may do this is to boycott brands that refuse to address the issue and publicly state that they would continue to do so not until these brands show that they are committed to resolving the problem. Furthermore, it is important that consumers who would have the greatest impact on the industry publicly state their withdrawal of support for erring clothing brands. Parents, for instance, are influential when it comes to raising awareness and reiterating the importance of various issues particularly when their children are involved. Hence, it is important that parents be at the forefront of this issue by refusing to purchase products for their children from various clothing brands (Zissu). Boycotting brands would pressure them to look into the issue and to take problem resolution seriously.
Other alternatives include recycling clothing. Clothing brands facilitate continuous and massive production of clothing because of the large demand for their products. Nonetheless, mass production leads to practices that do not meet safety standards. For this reason, it is important that both clothing brands and consumers learn how to regulate or control their use and consumption of clothing. Recycling would help reduce consumption and the need to produce a large amount of products (Alberts). Consequently, this would help clothing brands prioritize the implementation of safety standards and quality assurance.


The foregoing discussion illustrates the issues faced by clothing brands because of the lack of strict implementation of safety standards and policies when it comes to the quality of clothing being distributed by these global brands. These negligent practices put people’s lives at risk, particularly the workers that work in factories as well as consumers. For this reason, it is important to implement solutions to the problem. Examples of solutions include the implementation of policies and laws by clothing brands and governments to raise quality and safety standards of goods being produced, regulate the distribution of goods through quality control, and the implementation of punishment for factories or brands that fail to comply with these policies. Other solutions include the involvement of stakeholders in raising awareness about the issue and of consumers in pressuring clothing brands into resolving the matter by setting and implementing policies and laws in place. Other alternatives include social responsibility on the part of brands and consumers. Due to the high volume of waste (“Waste Not”), and the need for brands to produce large amounts of products that cause negligent practices, consumers must learn to recycle clothing and for brands to learn to focus on quality instead of quantity.

Works Cited

Alberts, Elizabeth Claire. Recycled Plastic Clothing: Solution or Threat? 15 Dec 2014. Earth Island Journal. 22 Apr 2015. <http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/recycled_plastic_clothing_solution_or_threat/>.
Contributor. Op-Ed: Toxic Chemicals in Clothing Make All of Us Fashion Victims. 20 Nov 2012. Business of Fashion. 22 Apr 2015. <http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/opinion/op-ed-toxic-chemicals-in-clothing-make-all-of-us-fashion-victims>.
Kant, Rita. Textile dyeing industry an environmental hazard. Natural Science, 4(1), 2012: 22-26.
Luisa, Christina. Greenpeace finds highly toxic chemicals in branded clothing. 26 Aug 2011. Natural News. 21 Apr 2015. <http://www.naturalnews.com/033436_toxic_chemicals_clothing.html>.
“Waste Not”. In P. Hawken, A. Lovins & L. Hunter Lovins.
Zissu, Alexandra. Greenpeace found chemical wolves in major brands of kids’ clothing. What’s in your baby’s closet? 28 Jan 2014. Healthy Child, Health World. 22 Apr 2015. <http://healthychild.org/greenpeace-found-chemical-wolves-in-major-brands-of-kids-clothing-whats-in-your-babys-closet/>

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