Are Your Jeans Responsible For Polluting China’s Pearl River?

By: Leonora Epstein / April 27, 2010

Pollution of the Pearl River has long posed a problem for China’s ecosystem; however, the degree of contamination has become twice as bad since 2007. One reason, according to a new Greenpeace report, points to the denim factories lining the banks of the water. Clearly, China is a huge manufacturer of consumer goods, and the denim industry also relies heavily on Chinese production. According to CNN, Xintang (a town that is home to many of these factories) “produces 200 million pairs of jeans per year including 60 different foreign brands. That is just under half of the 450 million pairs of jeans sold annually in the United States.” During the dye process, garments are bathed in harsh chemicals, and while many of these companies claim that they recycle this contaminated water, the truth is that it’s simply dumped into the river. This isn’t just an environmental issue; several of the toxins released are cancer-causing. The Chinese government says it will introduce new measures and regulations to fix this problem. However, it does seem sketchy to imply that these rules will be new rather than announce that the government would be more diligent about enforcing factory requirements. (Dumping chemicals in water doesn’t seem like it could be standard practice with no regulation, just more like officials and factories have turned a blind eye in this case.)

Here’s what we want to know—of these denim factories engaged in such environmentally irresponsible behavior, how many of them have produced jeans that are already in our drawers? [CNN]