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Greenpeace exposes toxic textile hazards

12-02-2010 10:00 BJT

Greenpeace released a report Wednesday revealing the environmental cost of China's lucrative textile industry, which has long been under criticism from home and abroad for its heavy industrial pollution.

The report, based on studies conducted by Greenpeace from April through October in two textile-intensive towns of Xintang and Gurao in southern Guangdong Province, said laboratory testing had found heavy metals such as copper, cadmium and lead in 17 out of 21 samples of water and sediment from the two places.

One sediment sample from Xintang contained cadmium at concentrations 128 times in excess of national environmental standards, the report showed.

More than 40 percent of jeans made in Xintang are exported to the United States, European Union countries and Russia, earning the city the title of "Blue Jeans Capital of the World," whereas Gurao has been branded "Capital of Sexy," since 80 percent of its local economy is related to the underwear and lingerie industry, according to local government websites.

"Dyeing, washing, bleaching and printing are some of the dirtiest processes in the textile industry, requiring high volumes of water, as well as heavy metals and other chemicals," explained Greenpeace toxics campaigner Mariah Zhao at Wednesday's press conference where the testing results were announced.

A primary school teacher in Gurao told the Global Times anonymously Wednesday that "The river is dirty and has been polluted by discharges from textile factories upstream. People use only tap water."

Xintang and Gurao are just the tip of the iceberg, underscoring a larger problem involving dirty textile manufacturing, Zhao cautioned.

Figures collected from the China Textile Industry Association and released by Greenpeace show that there have been 133 textile industrial clusters around the country since 2001. Figures from 2008 indicate that nearly 200 million people were working in the industry.

The textile industry has been one of the pillar industries in China. A report by the National Bureau of Statistics, cited by Greenpeace, shows that the output value of the industry grew from 19.36 billion yuan in 1990 to 224.7 billion yuan ($33.7 billion) in 2009.

Also according to Greenpeace, every ton of textile products produces 200 tons of wastewater. During the processing, about 2,500 types of chemicals are used.

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