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Greenpeace Tells Luxury Brands to Clean Out Their Hazardous Chemicals

SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- Greenpeace International says the children's clothing and footwear made by eight major luxury fashion brands contains hazardous chemicals that have hormone-disrupting properties.

In a report titled A Little Story about a Fashionable Lie: Hazardous Chemicals in Luxury Branded Clothing for Children, Greenpeace says such brands as Versace, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana all use hazardous chemicals in their manufacturing process.

The international nonprofit is calling on the luxury fashion houses to detox their production process.

"The textile industry is a major polluter globally and consumers aren't very aware of that," says John Deans, a detox campaigner for Greenpeace. "When we go to the store to get a pair of jeans, or in this case Versace clothing, we don't go with the expectation that we're getting something that has this trail of toxic pollution in its wake."

Greenpeace tested 27 products from eight luxury fashion brands. The brands tested include Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Trussardi and Versace. All the clothing tested was bought between May and June 2013. Independent, accredited laboratories carried out the tests.

Sixteen of the products bought by Greenpeace tested positive for one or more chemicals including nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates, polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) or antimony.

The residues were found in products from all of the brands studied except for Trussardi.

The highest concentration of NPEs was found in a Louis Vuitton ballerina shoe. The highest concentration of PFCs were found in a Versace jacket.

Greenpeace says that such chemicals -- which have hormone-disrupting properties -- leach into the environment from clothing factories or from the clothes themselves when they're washed, accumulating in the world's waterways.

Simply wearing the clothing, however, does not cause harm to the wearer, Deans says.

Greenpeace's detox campaign calls for a commitment from major fashion brands to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. Valentino and Burberry have committed to zero discharges from their textile production, Deans says. Burberry made its detox commitment in January, followed by Valentino in February.

No other luxury fashion brand has made such a commitment.

"All of these luxury fashion brands are very exclusive and have this reputation of purity," Deans says. "But they are just as toxic as Nike or any of the other companies we've looked at."

Versace, Armani and Louis Vuitton have all responded to the Greenpeace allegations by saying their products comply with international environment and safety standards. Versace "continues to search for raw materials and eco-sustainable technology solutions, with even stricter requirements than those set out under the current laws, renewing its commitment to the sustainability of the planet," according to a company statement.

The Greenpeace report says NPEs are used as surfactants and detergents in textile processing. Phthalates have various uses, including as additives in plastisol prints on clothing. Polyfluorinated chemicals are used to treat clothing and impart waterproofing or oil proofing properties. And finally, a compound of antimony (antimony trioxide) is used as a catalyst to make polyester.

Deans was unable to identify the cost of switching to cleaner, nontoxic chemicals.

"It varies chemical to chemical and process to process," Deans says. "In some cases these companies will probably save money, and in some cases they may have to spend more. But it's really about the companies taking leadership, pushing that innovation and finding ways to make it happen."

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