Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Greenpeace Chastising Brands for Toxic World Cup Gear

With less than a month to go before the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Greenpeace Germany has released a new report indicting adidas, Nike and Puma for producing soccer gear with hazardous chemicals after testing 33 items including boots, goalkeeper gloves and the official “Brazuca” ball, for a range of substances.

Greenpeace Germany says independent labs found chemicals including perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), nonylphenolethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates and dimethylformamide (DMF) in products from all three companies purchased across three continents; adidas’ “Predator” boots, for example, were found to contain PFCs at 14 times the level specified by the company’s restriction limits. These hazardous substances can leach from the products into the environment or get into the food chain. Some of them potentially cause cancer, disrupt the hormonal system or can be toxic to reproduction.

17 out of 21 pairs of boots and half of the goalkeeper’s gloves tested were found to contain ionic PFCs such as PFOA. After the "Predator" boot, Nike’s "Tiempo" boot contained the highest levels of PFOA at 5,93 micrograms per m2. A pair of adidas “Predator” gloves also contained levels of the substance in excess of the brand’s own limits. The “Brazuca” official World Cup ball was found to contain NPEs, a substance that, when released into the environment, degrades to nonylphenol, known to be toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. NPEs were also found in over two thirds of boots and half of the gloves, indicating the widespread use of this chemical.

Phthalates and dimethylformamide (DMF) were detected in all 21 boots. DMF — used as a solvent in boot manufacturing — is classified as toxic to reproduction and can be harmful when in contact with skin.

“Despite their Detox commitments, Nike and adidas are failing to tackle their toxic addiction. On behalf of the players, the fans and the local communities affected by toxic-water pollution we urge them to come clean by publicly disclosing the release of all hazardous chemicals and publishing a precise PFC phase-out plan,” says Manfred Santen, Detox Campaigner, Greenpeace Germany.

In response to the allegations, a representative from adidas commented: "None of the tested products pose any health risk to consumers; all of the published results and concentrations fully meet all legal requirements. To give you one example: The European guideline for NPE is 1,000 ppm (parts per million) — the value that was found in the adidas brazuca ball — is 50 times lower than this guideline. Therefore, brazuca — just like all other adidas products tested — is fulfilling all legal criteria. The result underlines our continued commitment to ensure this best practice approach in all of our products.

"We clearly reject Greenpeace’s attempt in making our consumers believe that our products are unsafe. We call on Greenpeace to share details of their testing methodology with us as we would like to verify the implied results through independent institutes. None of the implied test results suggest that any deliberate use of these components in our materials."

Since its launch in 2011, Greenpeace’s people-powered Detox campaign has convinced 20 clothing companies, from luxury to fast fashion to textile manufacturers, to commit to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their products and supply chain by 2020. While some companies are meeting the urgency of the situation by acting on their commitments, Greenpeace says some have yet to turn their commitments into action.

A Rank a Brand study released last month supports this assertion, showing discrepancies in sustainability talk and action in the fashion industry. The report finds that while fashion brands are tackling sustainability challenges through communication (63 percent speak of sustainability on their websites, 10 percent more than in 2011; 20 percent publish a sustainability report), many are not backing it with details and data about the actions they claim to be taking.

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