The study, citing laboratory analysis of 85 samples, many concern parents in the USA, as China is the world’s largest garment exporter.
Published in USA Today, December 17, 2013.
BEIJING – Kids’ clothes made in China’s two largest children’s wear production bases contain hazardous chemicals that pose potential health risks for children, says a new report by the environmental group Greenpeace.
The report urges Beijing to cut toxic residue in China-made clothes — many of which are exported to Europe and the USA — by establishing proper chemical management regulations.
The Greenpeace study, citing laboratory analysis of 85 samples, found that some of the clothing made by two garment makers contained NPE, a hormone disrupter, and antimony, a chemical element used in making bullets.
Authorities are not taking action to tackle the problem, said Lee Chih An of Greenpeace East Asia in Beijing.
“We want to put more pressure on the government, to tell them there is urgency for change,” Lee said.
China is the world’s largest garment exporter, and kids’ wear is one of its fastest growing sectors.
The two clothing centers investigated, Zhili town in eastern Zhejiang province, and Shishi city in southern Fujian province, account for 40% of China’s total production of children’s clothing, according to Greenpeace. Shishi exports up to 80% of its output, mostly to the Middle East, but also Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.
Even the Chinese government’s quality control watchdog agrees that kids’ clothes can be dangerous. The Defective Product Administrative Center of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision issued a consumer guide to parents in May advising parents to “buy light-color kids’ clothes, without fluorescent brighteners or pigment printing.”
A sample survey by the Beijing Consumer Association in June found 38% of children’s clothes did not meet quality standards.
China’s management of textile chemicals lags the European Union’s by 20 years, said Zhang Miao, a toxics campaigner at Greenpeace. “We can’t say that any brand has zero problems” of toxic residue, she said.
Previous Greenpeace studies exposed larger Chinese and foreign brands; this report focused on small and medium-sized enterprises because they represent the bulk of the industry. Such enterprises supply increasingly popular online businesses such as the Taobao.com retail site, Zhang said.
Some of the tested samples illegally used images of iconic U.S. characters such as Mickey Mouse. The report said third-party, independent laboratories found more than half of the 85 tested samples, all made in Zhili or Shishi, contained NPE and nine in 10 items made of polyester tested positive for antimony.
Phthalates, known for their toxicity to the reproductive system, were found in high concentrations on two samples, according to Greenpeace.
An Yiheng, vice secretary general of the children’s wear committee at the China National Garment Association (CNGA), declined to comment when contacted Tuesday by USA TODAY. The CNGA is a state-run body for China’s clothing industry.
Beijing housewife Zhang Xue, whose daughter is 2½, said she feels “pain in her heart” whenever she reads about toxic children’s clothes in China.
“All I can do now is to wash my daughter’s new clothes many times and put them in the sunshine for several days, as well as buying more light-color clothes,” said Zhang, 28. “I wish the quality standard in China could be stricter like in foreign countries, so I could worry less about my girl’s chances of getting sick.”
Contributing: Sunny Yang