This study follows on from several previous investigations published by Greenpeace Germany as part of its Detox campaign, which identified that hazardous chemicals are present in textile and leather products as a result of their use during manufacture. This is the first study that has specifically focused on football kit; the products bought were all manufactured and sold as part of the World Cup 2014 tournament, taking place in Brazil between June 12th and July 13th 2014.

The marketing of football shirts, boots and other accessories connected with the World Cup is a multi-billion dollar market, worth more than $5 billion annually; the top two brands – adidas and Nike – share upwards of 80 percent of the market for many soccer products. Record sales of football products are expected in 2014.

For this investigation, a total of thirty-three products – including twenty-one pairs of football boots, seven football shirts, four pairs of goalkeepers gloves and one ball – were bought from sixteen different countries/regions around the world: Argentina, Chile, China, Croatia, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and the UK. Twenty of the products were manufactured specifically for children of various ages.

The three major sportswear brands were all represented, with sixteen products from adidas, fifteen from Nike and two from Puma. All of the products were branded either with the names of famous footballers or the national teams playing in the World Cup 2014. They were purchased either directly from the brand’s stores – retail or online – or from well-known sports retailers. Most of the products were manufactured in either China or Indonesia with lesser quantities made in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Argentina, Bosnia, Georgia and the Ukraine.

The products were sent to the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter in the UK and a duplicate was sent to Greenpeace Germany. From there they were dispatched to independent accredited laboratories. The football boots and gloves were investigated for the presence of perfluorinated chemicals (PFC); all of the products were analysed for nonylphenol thoxylates (NPE) and phthalates, and the football boots and ball were analysed for dimethylformamide (DMF). This is the first time that Greenpeace has investigated products for the presence of DMF. For certain products, analysis was also carried out for organotins and antimony.

A Red Card for sportswear brands [PDF].