New study finds toxic monsters lurking in children’s clothing

Press release - January 14, 2014
Beijing/Manila, 14 January 2014—Hazardous chemicals have been found in children’s clothes and shoes made by major brands including Disney, Burberry and adidas, according to a new investigation released today by Greenpeace East Asia [1].
Testing has been completed on products sold by 12 brands across the industry, including American Apparel, GAP, Primark and Nike for the report “A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet” [2]. The findings showed little distinction between the levels of hazardous chemicals in clothing made for children -- a group particularly vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals when released into the environment [3] -- and adults when compared to previous studies [4]. The samples tested included products sold in the Philippines.

“This is a nightmare for parents everywhere who want their children to wear clothes that don't contain hazardous chemicals,” said Abigail Aguilar, Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “These chemical ‘little monsters’ can be found in everything—from exclusive luxury designs to budget fashion. They are polluting waterways around the world. There are alternatives available. For the sake of current and future generations brands should stop using these monsters.”

Every brand tested was found to have products containing hazardous chemicals. Among the results, one adidas swimsuit contained higher levels of PFOAs [5] than permitted in their own Restricted Substance List [6], a Primark children’s t-shirt contained 11% phthalates [7]. Meanwhile, high levels of NPEs [8] were found in products made by Disney, American Apparel and Burberry.

The study provides a further snapshot—across a diverse range of brands and of countries of manufacture and sale—of what appears to be a more generic problem, one that is not restricted to any particular country, product type or brand, and one that deserves further investigation including from a regulatory perspective.

The issue is urgent and needs addressing. It is not just the adults who are vulnerable to toxic pollution in clothes—be it budget or luxury. Infants and children are at risk because of a number of factors such as their size, body weight, metabolism and behaviour. They have reduced and slower metabolic capacities making them more vulnerable to chemicals and unable to eliminate certain toxins in their livers and kidneys.

Greenpeace’s Detox campaign calls for major clothing brands 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 [9].

The Philippines is a significant textile producer and chemicals consumer. Greenpeace is calling on governments 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 that they urge factories to disclose chemical information, in order to facilitate chemical elimination and supply chain transparency.

“Parents, fashion fans and local communities can help end this toxic nightmare by speaking out against polluting brands,” said Aguilar. “Thanks to global people power, some of the world’s biggest brands have committed to Detox and many of them are already walking the talk towards supply chain transparency and toxic chemical elimination. Let’s use our buying power to influence the brands and our voice to influence our governments to have a toxic-free generation. The generations of tomorrow need heroes today.”

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

For more information

Abigail Aguilar Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Email: Mobile: 0923-6502070

Vigie Benosa-Llorin Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Email: Mobile: 0917-8228793

Link to Photos:

Notes to Editors:
  • [1] Investigation carried out by Greenpeace International, published by Greenpeace East Asia.
  • [2] A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet: - The latest Detox report testing for hazardous chemicals in children’s products from 12 major clothing brands (adidas, American Apparel, Burberry, C&A, Disney, GAP H&M, LiNing, Nike, Primark, Puma and Uniqlo)
  • [3] A number of factors including size, metabolism and behaviour, can make infants, children and the developing foetus more vulnerable to some hazardous chemicals. See: P25
  • [4] Greenpeace International carried out a number of reports looking at the presence of hazardous chemicals in adults clothing items. See:
  • [5] PFOA is an ionic perfluorinated chemical which has been found throughout the environment even in remote regions. It can cause adverse impacts on the reproductive system and the immune system both during development and during adulthood.
  • [6] Adidas Restricted Substance List. See:
  • [7] Phthalates is a chemical group often used in the textile industry, for example, to soften plastics in some prints and some are known to be toxic to reproductive, particularly for development in mammals.
  • [8] 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, being persistent (remaining in the environment for a long time) and bioaccumulative (building up in the tissue of humans and animals)
  • [9] For more information on the progress made by brands towards their Detox commitments see Greenpeace International’s Detox Catwalk: