I have visited more than 20 times the pipe Huntsman Corporation – one of the largest suppliers of chemical substances in the world for the textile sector – uses to discharge wastewater into the Santiago River in Jalisco, Mexico.
It has never had the same colour. Usually red, sometimes blue and once yellow, it looks like this facility is trying to dye the water as if it was playing with it.
A recent study by Greenpeace Mexico has shown that even the government admits that people living close to this water are risking their health due to water polluted with hazardous chemicals. But the Santiago River is not a private plaything for Huntsman – it is one of Mexico’s most important rivers.
To publicly expose the company, we went to its headquarters in Mexico City’s World Trade Centre, offering dozens of bottles to the public with the message “Toxic Water by Huntsman”.
In the samples taken on two different days the analysis identified presence of various chemicals, none of which are regulated for water discharge in Mexico. Some of those chemicals can be dangerous for both human health and that of the aquatic ecosystem. For example, 2,5-dimethylaniline, which is classified under Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) as very toxic for aquatic life, as well as harmful if it is inhaled or in contact with skin. And this was only one of the several hazardous aniline derivates identified in the samples.
Very worryingly, less then half of the chemicals found in the samples could be identified. Indeed, we do not know what these unknown, but present chemicals, could cause to the environment and human health.
And this is not the only site. Hundreds of factories are releasing hazardous substances in Mexican rivers. They take advantage of weak regulation, and also perpetuate the dirty little secret big fashion brands are hiding in their clothing. This is a problem that the whole industry must address.
Huntsman is a supplier of several important worldwide brands, particularly in the textile sector. We demand these big fashion brands eliminate releases of hazardous chemicals into the environment and products. The best way to do this is to work with their suppliers to replace them with safer alternatives. And to show that they mean it, they must be transparent and disclose what each of their suppliers are releasing into our environment from their facilities. People living nearby have a right to know this information – as do the brands’ customers.
Add your voice to a global movement of people who love fashion, but hate pollution. Sign our manifesto and say “No” to toxic fashion!
Pierre Terras is a Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace Mexico