Tirupur is a district of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu, which is known by the name of the Cotton Belt, since there are plantations and factories for treating this fabric. The unfortunate working and hygienic conditions of the workers and the lack of control of chemical spills that are harmful to the environment and human health allow the large western clothing brands (Zara, H&M, C&A, Walmart, Primark, Polo Ralph Lauren , Diesel, Tommy Hilfiger, FILA, etc.) sell clothes at a very low price.
Europe and the United States are not free of the problem
But the western countries, the destination of the merchandise, are not safe from the harmful effects of these chemicals, even though the product already prepared and packaged reaches them. Cases of allergies with swelling and itching of the skin have been discovered due to having it in contact with some clothing.
The origin of this allergic problem is a compound called N, N-dimethylformamide (or dimethylformide), an organic compound that goes by the abbreviated name of DMF.
DMF has been linked to certain cancers and is believed to cause birth defects. In some sectors of the industry (western, of course) women are prohibited from working with DMF. Some DMF manufacturers have listed the substance on the safety data sheet as hazardous to health. Despite all this, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Environmental Protection Agency) does not consider it dangerous and allows its use. In Europe, it cannot be used in factories (no problem, they do it in India and China), but even if garments with this substance are detected, they are allowed to pass.
Various NGOs will continue to fight to uncover this terrible problem, going to poor countries where workers without rights risk their lives so that Westerners can dress cheaply and in the latest fashion. But that is not the origin of the matter. The origin are chemical companies like BASF are that supply these contaminants to firms in countries developing . And the end of the chain is the consumer who buys those clothes.
India and chemical pollution
India is not the only country that has these conditions , so advantageous for companies that supply fabrics to fashion brands in Europe and the United States and harmful to workers. Also in China and Blangladesh there are workshops where Western clothing is chemically treated and sometimes also made.
The Tirupur Cotton Textile Belt has been criticized by environmental groups and organizations in defense of human rights, especially for the serious risk involved in handling chemical substances dangerous to human health, some of them carcinogenic. The chemical dyeing of clothes is one of the most polluting processes for the environment and the most dangerous for workers if they are not protected, as is the case for workers in Tiripur.
For these and other reasons, many of these factories have closed and, where previously there was a huge demand for employment, now there are neighborhoods where there is no work and tens of thousands of people are unemployed. An estimated 100,000 jobs were lost.
Does this mean that the polluting chemical dyeing industry is done with ? No. The producers take the factory to any other region of the world where there is cheap labor and little or no control of labor, health and environmental conditions. Even if there is a fatal accident, it is very cheap for companies to compensate the families of deceased workers.
Lawsuits are currently underway in which some 250 Indian textile workers from Bangalore, Gurgaon and Tirupur provinces have declared that they have been harassed at work in factories that make clothes for Western brands. International brands such as H&M and Adidas are involved, as well as representatives of the Government of India.
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