Greenpeace study finds toxic residues in kids wear sold by Burberry, adidas, etc.

Press release - 2014-01-14
Beijing - Hazardous chemicals have been found in children’s clothes and shoes made by major brands including Burberry, adidas and Disney, according to a new investigation released today by Greenpeace East Asia [1].

Tests carried out on 82 items sold by 12 leading clothing brands [2] revealed the presence of hazardous, potentially hormone disrupting chemicals in children’s clothing made and sold by a wide range of brands, from budget to luxury, illustrating a serious problem throughout the industry.

Chih An Lee, Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said:

“This is a nightmare for parents everywhere looking to buy safe clothes for their children. These chemicals are in everything, from exclusive luxury designs to affordable fashion, and from t-shirts to shoes. What’s worse, they are accumulating in our waterways, especially China’s rivers and oceans, leaving a long lasting environmental mess for our future generations.”

These products were purchased in May and June 2013 in 25 countries or regions worldwide, from flagship stores or authorized retailers. They were manufactured in at least 12 different countries/regions, while a third of them were made in China.

Testing results show that NPE [3] was in 61% of the samples, while more than 94% of products with plastisol prints contained phthalates [4]. Every single brand tested was found to have some items containing hazardous chemicals: one adidas swimsuit contained PFOAs [5] at a level higher than the limit stated on the company's own Restricted Substance List [6], a Primark children’s t-shirt contained 110,000mg/kg phthalates, and high levels of NPEs were found in products made by Burberry, adidas and Disney.

This latest investigation showed little, if any, distinction between the levels of hazardous chemicals in clothing made for children - a particularly vulnerable group - and adults when compared to previous studies. [7]

China is currently the world’s top textile producer and chemicals consumer. Greenpeace is calling on the government to help stop the use of hazardous chemicals in the textile industry. It is critical they publish a chemical blacklist to be acted upon immediately and urge factories to disclose chemical information, in order to facilitate chemical elimination and supply chain transparency and create a level playing field for the industry.

“It would be tragic if China remains the world’s textile mill simply because the global textile sector wants to take advantage of its lagging environment policy. In fact, with a chemicals management system already starting to take shape, China can and should build a strong and healthy textile industry,” said Lee.

Apart from demands for policy makers, Greenpeace’s Detox campaign calls for major clothing brands like Burberry to commit to zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals by 2020. Thanks to public pressure, 18 major brands have already made landmark Detox commitments and many are making significant progress towards their goals of supply chain transparency and chemical elimination. [8]

Media Contact:

Damin Tang,
International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia
Tel: +86-10-65546931-185
Mobile: +86-13911526274


[1] Investigation carried out by Greenpeace International, published by Greenpeace East Asia.   

[2] Brands tested: adidas, American Apparel, Burberry, C&A, Disney, GAP, H&M, Li-Ning, Nike, Primark, Puma and Uniqlo.

[3] Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) is a group of chemicals that break down in the environment to form the hazardous chemical nonylphenols (NP), which are known to be toxic, acting as hormone disruptors, and being both persistent (remaining in the environment for a long time) and bioaccumulative (building up in the tissue of humans and animals).

[4] Pthalates is a chemical group often used in the textile industry as a softener and known to be toxic to reproductive development in mammals.

[5] PFOA is an ionic polyflourinated chemical that has been found throughout the environment, even in remote regions. It can cause adverse impacts on the reproductive and immune systems, both during development and in adulthood.

[6] The adidas Restricted Substance List 

[7] Greenpeace International carried out a number of investigations looking at the presence of hazardous chemicals in adults clothing items.

[8] For more information on the progress made by brands towards their Detox commitments see Greenpeace International’s Detox Catwalk.