New study links Chinese apparel companies to river pollution. Suprised? Not in the least.

Red polluted water flowing from a sewer into the Jian River in Luoyang, north China's Henan province in December 2011. Red dye was being dumped into the city's storm water pipe network by two illegal dye workshops. ( STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A recently released study has linked Chinese apparel companies who supply many major brands and retailers in the US and around the world to devastating pollution of rivers. As fly fishers and environmental stewards we should man up and find other places to manufacture the gear we use.

I’m doing my part by making my SmithFly gear in the US where we have more strict regulations and protections in place to prevent these kinds of things. It would have been much easier for me to just go where everyone else get’s their stuff made, but I chose the path less traveled.

As I’ve said before the people of these third world countries will eventually figure it out.

For us, in the Buckeye State, it took setting a river on FIRE to figure out we had a pollution problem. Now, after DECADES of hard work by countless groups and individuals, in the those same watersheds we can find beautiful anadromous Steelies. A true turn around. We can help these countries avoid the calamity we suffered by being good neighbors and not supporting their lax regulations.

One of the myth’s about overseas manufacturing is that it’s just the cheap labor that keeps costs down. No, in fact it’s also the lax regulations and lack of oversight that let businesses dump waste directly into streams from industrial processes. No permits, no extra equipment, no dumping fees, no inspection costs = cheaper in the short run, but more costly in the long run. Negative externalities.

Here’s what the HuffPo has to say about the new study…

The sassy spring colors flooding into America’s stores are also polluting Chinese rivers, according to a new report.

Textile suppliers of Zara, H&M, Ann Taylor, Guess, Target, Disney and Uniqlo, among other big brands, have violated China’s environmental laws by contaminating water supplies with chemicals from dyes and printing, according to a new report released from the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based nonprofit whose founder, Ma Jun, won this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia.

The report, entitled “Cleaning up the Fashion Industry,” bases its findings on the Institute’s online database of 90,000 environmental supervision records from Chinese government agencies, dating back to 2004. As of February, 6,000 of the Institute’s records were from textile plants, according to the report.

The report also tracked down the names of 48 international brands who source goods from polluters, in hopes of convincing fashion’s big names to establish stricter rules for suppliers.

When chemicals used in dying and printing are released into water supplies, they hurt both humans and animals, causing mass deaths of aquatic life and diseases like cancer in humans, according to the report. Access to water is limited in China, where one-fifth of cities have unhygienic water supplies and 300 million rural residents lack safe drinking water all together, according to ChinaDaily.

While the Chinese government does regulate water pollution, manufacturers have found a myriad of ways of getting around the rules, including constructing secret pipes or directly dumping wastewater into rivers. Many factories in the Institute’s database have violated standards multiple times. “Fines and punishments that are inflicted are insufficient to prevent factories from accruing repeat violations,” the report writes.

The Institute hopes that disclosing the relationships between international brands and suppliers who pollute might be more effective. Before releasing its report, the Institute sent letters to the CEOs of the 48 companies outlining the violations and received responses from 16. Many of the international brands named, like H&M, Walmart, Burberry and Adidas had already begun investigating violations. Others, like Abercrombie & Fitch, Puma, Guess and Zara have yet to address or respond to charges.

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One thought on “New study links Chinese apparel companies to river pollution. Suprised? Not in the least.

  1. Then the consumer needs to wake up the companies who are not taking any action.It’s bad enough they go solely after cheap labor, but to destroy the environment on to of that is inexcusable. The dollar is the only thing most large corporations seem to understand…or should we say the LOSS of a dollar? Thanks for the info Ethan!

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