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How Water Gets Polluted by Fast Fashion

Some of the world’s largest fashion brands are linked to dangerous levels of toxins in African rivers. A new report from Water Witness International (WWI) shows that fast fashion manufacturing across the African continent is related to pollution, which is killing rivers and preventing workers and their communities from accessing safe water, toilets and washing facilities. In Lesotho in southeastern Africa, studies have found that a river dyed blue by jeans manufacturing and samples of the Msimbazi River in Tanzania has a pH as high as 12. Nick Hepworth, the person in charge of the First World War and the main author of the report, said: “I collected some samples, which burned my hands, and the concentration of the river water was as strong as bleach.” Hexavalent chromium is used in older and cheaper black dyes and is a toxic metal. Hepworth said that they found the chemical in some rivers at five times the level considered safe. This poses a major problem for communities near factories that rely on these water sources.

“Untreated industrial waste from textile mills is directly discharged into rivers and thousands of people use it as domestic water,” Hepworth explained. “There is no choice but to use polluted river water to wash clothes, water the garden or water the cattle.” The First World War found that about 50 high-street brands of clothing came from African countries, including ASOS, Zara, and Primark, but they did not directly link pollution to any company’s supply chain. Many sources interviewed for the report, including government officials, also expressed concern about the availability of clean water and toilets for African garment factories. For women, who make up the majority of the workforce, water, sanitation, and personal hygiene (WASH) facilities are essential for menstrual hygiene management and dignity.

 

With information from: https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/08/19/blue-rivers-and-water-as-strong-as-bleach-the-destructive-impact-of-fast-fashion-in-africa

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