Sucheta Dalal :Greenpeace trains its guns on toxicity of Disney clothes.
Sucheta Dalal

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Greenpeace trains its guns on toxicity of Disney clothes.  

April 16, 2004

Tests Reveal Disney Children's Wear Contains Hazardous Chemicals

WASHINGTON - April 15 - A Greenpeace report published today shows that chemicals that may present a long-term hazard to human health are present in Disney childrenswear. Disney garments, including T-shirts, pyjamas and underwear, were bought in retail outlets in 19 countries around the world and analysed by the Danish independent laboratory Eurofins.

The report, entitled "Toxic Childrenswear by Disney" [1], reveals that most of the garments contained hazardous chemicals. The chemicals - found in the printed characters - are likely to be present as a result of the use of PVC plastisol printing techniques. "The good news is that it's possible to print colourful T-shirts without using hazardous chemicals", said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace campaigner.

Retailers can play an important role in reducing the presence of hazardous chemicals in consumer products. A Tigger vest bought in Denmark from global clothes retailer Hennes & Mauritz, for example, used a print alternative for textiles that does not use these toxic chemicals, because in 2002 H&M decided to substitute PVC and PVC prints in all its products.

"If Disney cared about chemical contaminants in its childrenswear, it could demand that hazardous substances be substituted or simply avoided, just as H&M has done," said Kruszewska. Greenpeace urged Disney in 2003 to take responsibility for substituting harmful chemicals in its products. Disney reacted by stating that its products are in line with the law, and took no action.

When licensing its logo and copyright characters for use in products, Disney places strict conditions on suppliers, including regarding design and colours. It should also ensure that hazardous chemicals are not used in products it licenses or produces.

EU loophole

Greenpeace's report and test results come at a crucial time, as the EU is debating a proposed directive that will regulate the chemical industry. The original text for the proposed legislation, called REACH, had at its core the principle of substitution. This means that if a company is using a hazardous chemical in a product when a safer alternative exists, it will be legally obliged to stop using the hazardous chemical.

"Sadly, the EU institutions have been successfully lobbied by the chemicals industry and certain governments, including the US, to remove this principle," said Nadia Haiama Neurohr, Greenpeace EU policy advisor. "Unless EU governments act to close that loophole, companies like Disney will be at liberty to continue selling clothes containing chemicals that could harm children's health, even when safer alternatives exist," she added.

Global example

On a global level, the 2001 Stockholm Convention seeks to ban the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by identifying environmentally safer alternatives. While the scope of the Stockholm Convention is currently limited to 12 substances, the treaty has adopted the framework of substitution.

"This is clearly the future direction of chemicals policy worldwide," said Haiama-Neurohr. "We'll see how serious EU Member States are about implementing the Stockholm Convention when we see their efforts to strengthen REACH and ensure that harmful chemicals are substituted wherever safer alternatives are available," she continued.

-- Sucheta Dalal