Undercover investigation reveals suppliers of top clothing brands polluting China’s rivers

Press release - 2011-07-13
Beijing — Greenpeace released new evidence showing that the suppliers of major clothing brands, including sportswear giants Adidas, Nike and Li Ning, are polluting rivers part of the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas in China. Greenpeace’s Dirty Laundry report, researched and investigated over a one-year period, reveals that hazardous chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties have been found in wastewater samples from two factory complexes that supply these and other global fashion brands.

“Our tests of the wastewater found toxic chemicals that have no place in our natural environment,” stated Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner Li Yifang. “As the world’s factory, China is the production base for many global and domestic fashion brands. Now we have scientific evidence confirming that hazardous chemicals are being released into China’s rivers to make clothes worn by people around the globe.”

Youngor Textiles Factory - Ningbo, China

Youngor Textiles Factory, in Yinzhou District, Ningbo. Situated on the Yangtze River Delta. Youngor is a major textiles and apparel brand in China. © Qiu Bo / Greenpeace

Greenpeace is challenging the clothing brands named in the report to eliminate the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals from their supply chain and products. “We are calling on trendsetting brands that have major influence on their supply chains, such as Adidas, Nike and Li Ning, to take the lead,” Li stated. “These brands have the ability and responsibility to work with their suppliers to provide products that do not irrevocably damage the environment and public health.”

Laboratory testing found a cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including nonylphenols – a subset of alkylphenols – and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), in wastewater samples from the Youngor Textile Complex on the Yangtze River Delta and Well Dyeing Factory on the Pearl River Delta.

Alkylphenols and PFCs have hormone-disrupting properties and can be hazardous even at low levels. They are persistent in the environment, can move up through the food chain, and can travel great distances via air and water currents. Because of this, alkylphenols and some PFCs are restricted by the EU and international conventions. Nevertheless, they are still widely used by the textiles industry in developing countries such as China, where they have yet to be restricted.

“Currently many of the highlighted brands take a ‘not in my product’ approach towards hazardous chemicals, only restricting some of them in their final products. This is unacceptable," stated Li. "Such policies essentially give suppliers the green light to discharge hazardous wastewater as long as the chemicals are not found in the products. We are asking brands to take a more comprehensive approach and eliminate all hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chain to ensure that they do not end up in China’s rivers or the products themselves.”

Greenpeace’s report comes at a time when an estimated 70% of China’s rivers and lakes are polluted. To mark the launch of a global campaign that aims to push clothing brands and their suppliers to achieve “zero hazardous discharge”, Greenpeace activists today put up banners with the campaign slogan “Detox” on the main entrances of Adidas’ and Nike’s flagship stores in Beijing.


Media Contacts:

Guan Yuanyuan, Greenpeace East Asia Media Officer, +86 10-6554 6931 ext.123

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