Are Your Designer Jeans Making Factory Workers Sick?


There are few things that compare to the comfort and look of a worn-in pair of blue jeans. In fact, the allure of your “favorite pair of jeans” is so enticing that designers have been looking for ways to artificially duplicate it for years.

Even though sandblasting was outlawed in Europe in 1966 many top designers still use it in their foreign factories to give denim a worn, faded look. According to Mother Jones, inhaling silica from the sand used during this treatment process puts factory workers in developing countries at increased risk for a disabling lung disease called silicosis.

Sandblasting is “often performed in small workshops in the informal sector in jeans-producing countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, China, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico, reports the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Almost all of the jeans sold in Europe are produced in these countries. In Turkey alone, 46 documented cases of sandblasters contracting silicosis and dying have been registered. This is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg.”

A few months ago, the Clean Clothes Campaign started a public action concerning the sandblasting of denim. The CCC urged many of the top fashion designers in the world to ban sandblasting in their supply chains, and some, like Levi’s, H&M and C&A got on board immediately. Others, like Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli, have ignored requests to protect worker health.

Find a complete list of brands that have and have not taken action on this urgent problem here.

The CCC also calls on the governments of jeans-producing countries to outlaw denim sandblasting, ensure that occupational health and safety rules are enforced and provide disability pensions to sandblasters who contracted silicosis. Consumers in the importing countries can also contribute by refusing to purchase denim that has been treated with the deadly process.

Take Action: Tell the major denim brands that killer jeans aren’t fashionable by signing the petition below!

Related Reading:

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Foreign Students Protest Treatment At Hershey’s Factory

Image Credit: Flickr – charliedees


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

iii q.
g d c5 years ago


Glenn Byrnes
Glenn Byrnes5 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago


K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

dawn w.
Dawn W6 years ago

Depressing.What to wear these days?Let's all start wearing barrels.Signed & tweeted.

Gina P.
Regina P6 years ago

I read this elsewhere and was appalled. Risking lives for a fashion statement is ridiculous. We should all boycott these jeans. No one's life is worth it for denim!

Sisilie B.
Sisilie B6 years ago

Thanks for the info!

Anon Mous
Jorie H6 years ago

Sent the letter!

If you have spare time, it could be a good idea to send the companies that DID ban sandblasting (read them by following the link in the article) a "thanks, and please continue to work with the Clean Clothes Campaign on the implementation of the ban. I'll be following your progress," message.