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Suppliers For Nike And Adidas Accused Of Polluting Rivers

July 14, 2011

The environmental group Greenpeace reported this week that eight samples of wastewater discharged from two factories in the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas in China, contained “a cocktail of hazardous chemicals”.

The factories supply materials that make up major clothing brands such as Nike and Adidas, reports the AFP news agency.

Hormonal problems down river from these factories are being linked to the waste that is dumped into these important water sources. The Yangtze, China’s longest river, and the Pearl River Delta serve as a source of drinking water for about 67 million people, including those in Hong Kong, according to Greenpeace.

“Our tests of the wastewater found toxic chemicals that have no place in our natural environment,” Greenpeace campaigner Vivien Yau told a news conference in Hong Kong. “We are calling on trendsetting brands that have major influence on their supply chains, such as Adidas, Nike and Li Ning (a popular Chinese sportswear brand) to take the lead.”

The report that Greenpeace released said laboratory testing found wastewater samples contained nonylphenols and perfluorinated chemicals, which are used, among other uses, to make materials stain and stick resistant.

These chemicals are harmful to immune and endocrinological systems as well as the liver. They are non-degradable and cannot be removed by water treatment plants, and are restricted across the European Union and the United States.

“We are not focusing on just the two companies identified in the report. We are saying this is just the tip of the entire iceberg,” says Greenpeace campaign manager Gloria Chang, urging Beijing to speed up regulatory reforms.

Responding to these accusations, Nike, Puma and Adidas said they only run cut-and-sew facilities, which do not warrant the use of chemicals. “To the best of our knowledge, we are not contributing to the pollution of the Yangtze Delta through our factory partners,” Simon Wainwright, a Nike spokesman, told Reuters.

“Nike currently sources from two factories of the Youngor Group Co … These factories are cut-and-sew facilities; they do not have manufacturing processes that include use of the chemicals called out by Greenpeace.”

Sabrina Cheung, director of corporate communications at Adidas, told Reuters: “The Adidas Group does not source fabrics from Youngor Group, which would involve the use of dyestuffs, chemicals and their associated water treatment processes.”

Greenpeace wants foreign firms to insist upon higher standards throughout their supply chains, reports The Telegraph. The environmental group also claims these brands have a moral obligation to phase out hazardous chemicals not just in the final product sold to first-world consumers but also in the industrial process that affect workers and the environment in developing nations.

“These companies are doing business with a polluter. We are not accusing them of being evil, we are challenging them to take the lead on eliminating toxins,” said Li Yifang, who headed the investigation at the Greenpeace China office.

“There is no safety limit for these chemicals because they accumulate. So we ask Nike and the others to help phase them out over a reasonable time frame. That would send a signal to the whole industry.”

Image Caption: A Greenpeace campaigner takes a sample of yellow-coloured waste water from the discharge pipe at the Youngor Textiles Factory.Credit: © Qiu Bo / Greenpeace

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