Toxic Threads
2014/010/08
By : Emma Lane
Tensions between Greenpeace and the fashion industry are nothing new, and the latest offering from the organisation turns its focus on Mexico. "Toxic Threads: Under Wraps" details the hazardous chemicals dumped in the waters of Mexico in two of the biggest denim manufacturers - Lavamex in Aguascalientes and Kaltex in San Juan del Rio Queretaro.

The publication is one of the Detox Reports, a series of documents that have exposed and enlightened readers to the realities of the fashion industry over the last few years. The report begs the question - how far will we as a society go in order to produce cheaper and bigger quantities of clothes? And where does the blame lie? Do we as consumers have a right to know about what goes in to making our clothes, or is it the individual's responsibility to educate themselves?

"Toxic Threads" is a thorough investigation of Lavamex and Kaltex and the hazardous chemicals used in their denim production. The Lavamex factory is situated in Aguascalientes, near the Santiago River which has dried up significantly in recent years. It is one of several plants that belong to the INISA group. Greenpeace tested samples from Pipe 1, which is the only registered pipe in use in the factory. Pipe 1 is in use 24 hours a day, every day.

The findings included an array of hazardous chemicals such as Nonylphenol, TMDD, two benzotriazoles, tributyl phosphate and trichloraniline. The chemicals range from moderately toxic to aquatic life to persistent environmental contaminants with hormone disrupting properties. In addition to this, there are two illegal, unregistered pipes in use, which Greenpeace were unable to investigate.

A similar study was conducted in the Kaltex plant in San Juan del Rio, owned by GrupoKaltex. The group is the largest textile company in Latin America and export over 60% of their products, mostly to the US. They are responsible for 30% of all denim made in Mexico. They have two permits to discharge their waste - one to the San Juan River, which is a part of the Panuco River, and the other reportedly into "a field". Despite this, there has only been one inspection between 2007 and 2011, and not one government sample has been taken between 2002 and 2009. Like Lavamex several toxic chemicals were found, including TMDD and 2 trichlorinated benzenes. Two phthalate esters (DEHP and DiBP) were also found, which are reproductive toxins. The plant also came into controversy when it was reported to be discharging 18 million litres of waste per day.

Greenpeace describe the difficulties they found in obtaining reports and samples from both plants, implying the country's "culture of secrecy" is to blame for this. It's hard to believe that Mexico is solely to blame, considering the international fashion industry's questionable ethical behaviour in relation to production. Aside from environmental controversies, there has been a prevalent history of human rights issues, including this year's Sak's bag controversy.

Basing the issue on the Mexican culture seems to be a poor judgement on the situation, as the majority of the product is exported to countries like the US, Canada and the UK. Without a steady stream of purchase there would be no need for underhand methods or pressure to produce. However the Detox Report goes on to examine the different fashion houses and companies that are or have been involved with the plants, including Gap, Mango, and H&M.

The Detox Reports, as mentioned earlier, have been in circulation by Greenpeace for the last few years and have been successful not only in educating readers but bringing about awareness and progress in conscious production. In the wake of their 2011 Detox Campaign, the Roadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) was formed in 2011 to make steps towards eliminating toxins by 2020, and several major fashion brands signed up.
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