Toxic Chemicals in Popular Children’s Clothing Brands

It’s the kind of deal you don’t want to score while out shopping for your kids – a cute, new shirt that comes with a host of invisible “little monsters” clinging to it. Greenpeace coined this phrase to describe the residual toxic chemicals that poison our children’s new clothing, left over from the manufacturing process. The same chemical levels exist in adult clothing, too, but children are far more vulnerable to their adverse effects on human reproduction, hormonal and immune systems. When these clothes are washed, the chemical run-off also contaminates the water supply.

Greenpeace tested 12 major clothing brands (a total of 82 children’s textile products), including companies such as American Apparel, Disney, Adidas, Burberry, Primark, GAP, Puma, C&A and Nike. Every brand contained toxic chemicals – perfluorated chemicals (PFCs), phthalates, nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), and cadmium. According to Greenpeace’s press release:

“One Adidas swimsuit contained higher levels of PFOAs [a type of PFC] than permitted on their own Restricted Substance List, while printed fabric on a Primark children’s t-shirt contained 11% phthalates. Meanwhile, NPEs were detected in at least 1 article from every brand with high levels in products made by brands including Disney, American Apparel, and Burberry.”

Greenpeace has launched a campaign called Detox, calling on the fashion industry and textile producers to stop using hazardous chemicals. The Detox campaign, which has been going on for two years, has successfully convinced major brands such as Zara, H&M, Valentino, Mango, Victoria’s Secret, and Levis to clean up their acts. In the past two weeks, both Burberry and Primark have bowed to public pressure and signed a Detox commitment. This means they will adhere to zero discharge of all hazardous chemicals by 2020 and require textile suppliers to disclose releases of toxic chemicals from their facilities to the public and communities who live near the site of water pollution.

How can you help join the fight for toxic-free fashion? Keep reading for 5 ideas

Despite the campaign’s success, there’s still a long ways to go. Companies such as Disney and GAP continue to refuse to Detox. You, however, can join the fight for toxic-free fashion, and here’s what you can do:

1. Start by watching this revealing YouTube clip on how people power truly is changing the face of fashion.

2. Show this infographic, “A Detox Fairy Tale,” to any children you know. Get it into school classrooms to help educate them about what’s actually in their clothing. Science teachers can use the online Water Warrior tool kit to teach students about the importance of protecting our global water supply.

3. Sign the Detox Fashion Manifesto to add your personal voice to the campaign.

4. Learn how to Detox your own wardrobe. Greenpeace provides practical pointers here that include buying second-hand, opting for high-quality classics that won’t need to be replaced anytime soon, supporting eco-friendly brands, learning how to mend, refusing distressed denim (aka “killer jeans”), and washing less.

5. Post a picture of yourself on Instagram wearing a plain (no brand name) T-shirt. In the caption field, type hashtags #detox #peoplepower and the name of whatever brand you’d like to see Detox.

Article by Katherine Martinko


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Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez3 years ago


Tanya W.
Tanya W3 years ago

Now that's just wrong!

A F.
Athena F3 years ago


Angela J.
Angela J4 years ago

Thank you.

Sara Bostic
Sara Bostic4 years ago

It is downright sickening to think that the clothes you are buying for your children are full of toxic chemicals. Where are the scruples of these companies? It goes to show that we have to be diligent in researching everything these days. You can't take anything for granted in terms of it being safe, natural, healthy, etc., etc. Everyone wants the best for their children and for their families. We have to hold companies accountable for providing safe ingredients, no matter what it is, whether it's clothing, food, housing materials, etc.

Alexandra Ekdahl
Alexandra Ekdahl4 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage s4 years ago


Carol P.
Carol P4 years ago

I have to give a high five to the author of this post for not only sharing the problem, but also ways to combat it. Now, if only more people would become aware of issues like this and take an active role rather than shopping by price alone.

silja salonen
silja salonen4 years ago

Ridiculous. Why is the question? Monsanto...maybe...

Geoff P.
Geoff P4 years ago

Should be okay after washing