Greenpeace leaks China’s dirty little secret
According to a report released by
Greenpeace last week, Xintang and Gurao—two textile towns from China’s southern Guangdong province—are widely polluted with toxic industrial waste. From April to October of this year, the environmental organization investigated soil and water quality in Xintang—whose factories manufacture more than 260 million pairs of jeans annually (roughly equivalent to 40 percent of all denim sold in the U.S. each year)—and Gurao.
Testing by an independent laboratory revealed cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and mercury in 17 out of the 21 sediment samples submitted. In one sample from Xintang, cadmium concentrations—exposure to which can cause lung and kidney disease and other forms of cancer—were 128 times higher than China’s own legally acceptable environmental limits.
Greenpeace has advised that without substantial changes to industry practices on chemical use and release, government regulations as well as altered attitudes from local and international consumers, cities like Xintang and Gurao will continue to exist. So the next time you find yourself eyeing distressed, acid-washed jeans, make sure to check out the ‘made in’ labels.
By Lauren Grosberg