Pollutant found in imported t-shirts

Traces of an environmental contaminant that can pollute Sweden’s water supplies have been found in nearly every t-shirt tested, a new study shows.

The government and the textile industry have been urged to ensure that clothes with the chemical nonylphenolethoxylate (NPE) don’t come to Sweden.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and the Swedish Water & Wastewater Association (SWWA) present the findings of their study of imported t-shirts in a debate article published on Wednesday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The groups tested t-shirts imported to Sweden by clothing chains Dressman, Stadium, Intersport, and others.

NPE was found in nearly every t-shirt tested, sometimes in extremely high amounts.

Three t-shirts which were manufactured in the EU also contained the chemical, despite the fact that the substance is in principle banned within the EU.

NPE breaks down into the environmental contaminate nonylphenol, which is extremely poisonous to water born organisms.

When clothes are washed, the chemical is rinsed out and ends up in water supplies. Up to nine tonnes of nonylphenol can be released by Sweden’s water treatment plants every year, according to the article’s authors.

Last autumn, SSNC presented a study showing that imported towels contained high amounts of NPE.

Swedish textile importers aren’t living up to the goal of ensuring that clothing imports don’t contain NPE, states the article.

The authors also conclude that the EU’s new chemical law isn’t sufficient to stop NPE, and they urge the Swedish government to push the EU to strengthen its chemical legislation.