Greenpeace investigation reveals toxic scandal with World Cup merchandise

Press release - 19 May, 2014
Hamburg, 19 May 2014 – Football merchandise produced by adidas, Nike and Puma ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has been found to contain hazardous chemicals according to a new investigation by Greenpeace Germany. 33 items including boots, goalkeeper gloves and the official ‘Brazuca’ ball were tested for a range of substances. adidas’ iconic ‘Predator’ football boots were found to contain very high levels of toxic PFC at 14 times the company’s own restriction limits [1].

"Brands like adidas may equip some of the world’s greatest players and claim to be championing the beautiful game but our investigations have revealed they are playing dirty. With their profits set to soar during the World Cup, we demand that these brands stop fouling football and clean up their game,” says Manfred Santen, Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.

Independent laboratories found chemicals like perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), nonylphenolethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates and dimethylformamide (DMF) in products from all three companies and purchased across three continents. These hazardous substances can leach from the products into the environment or get into the food chain. Some of them potentially cause cancer, disrupt the hormonal system or can be toxic to reproduction.

17 out of 21 football boots and half of the goalkeeper’s gloves tested were found to contain ionic PFCs such as the particularly dangerous PFOA [2]. After the adidas’ "Predator" boot, Nike’s "Tiempo" boot contained the highest levels of PFOA at 5,93 micrograms per m2. A pair of adidas ‘Predator’ gloves also contained levels of the substance in excess of the brand’s own limits. The ‘Brazuca’ official World Cup ball was found to contain NPEs, a substance that, when released into the environment, degrades to nonylphenol known to be toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. NPEs were also found in over two thirds of boots and half of the gloves, indicating the widespread use of this chemical. 

Phthalates and dimethylformamide (DMF) were detected in all 21 boots. DMF - used as a solvent in boots manufacturing - is classed as toxic to reproduction and can be harmful when in contact with skin. 

“Despite their Detox commitments, Nike and adidas are failing to tackle their toxic addiction. On behalf of the players, the fans and the local communities affected by toxic-water pollution we urge them to come clean by publicly disclosing the release of all hazardous chemicals and publishing a precise PFC phase-out plan,” says Santen. 


Manfred Santen, Detox Campaigner, Greenpeace Germany
Tel +49 151-18053387


Patric Salize, Press Officer, Greenpeace Germany
Tel 0171-8780828

Since its launch in 2011, Greenpeace’s people powered Detox campaign has convinced 20 brands, from luxury over fast fashion to sportswear to commit to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their products and supply chain by 2020. While some companies are meeting the urgency of the situation by acting on their commitments, others such as adidas and Nike are hiding behind a veil of paper promises and greenwashing actions. For more information on progress see the Detox Catwalk.

[1] The adidas "Predator" boot tested for the highest concentration of the ionic Polyfluorinated chemical (PFC), PFOA at 14,5 microgram per square meter – 14 times the brand’s own PFOA limits of 1 microgram per square meter.

[2] PFOA can damage the immune or the reproductive system


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