Target is latest retailer to stop sandblasting its denim as technique is linked to fatal lung condition
Budget-conscious retail giant Target is the latest clothing superstore to join rank in the cessation of sandblasting its denim.
The treatment has long been a way of achieving the worn-in look adored by fashion-lovers since the Nineties but in recent years it has emerged as the cause of an incurable form of lung cancer.
Responding to pressure from the
Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Target follows the example of Levi's and
H&M who stopped selling distressed denim collections in
Joining rank: Target is the latest clothing superstore to stop sandblasting its denim collections in acknowledgement of the health risks for workers
Sandblasting is the firing of minute particles of silica at high pressure at denim and is what gives the fabric its faded appearance.
But if inhaled, the silica dust can result in silicosis, a potentially fatal pulmonary disease.
Activists and campaign groups have forced designer labels to review their practices too.
Last summer, Versace stopped sandblasting under pressure from the Clean Clothes Campaign and Change.org and was forced for a short time to shut down its Facebook wall.
Fatal: Sandblasting causes an incurable pulmonary disease
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was formed at the beginning of 2011 with brands like Adidas,
Esprit, Gap, H&M, Levi Strauss, Nike, Marks & Spencer,
Patagonia, Timberland, Target, and Walmart joining the cause.
But as one activist and author, Sam Maher, explained to the BBC last year, closing sandblasting factories is not always a simple procedure.
'There is still the worry that it is more of a paper commitment,' he explained. 'It's such a poorly-controlled industry.
Companies need to have a much stronger grip on their supply chain than we believe they do.'
The side effects of sandblasting have been known since 2004 when a doctor in Turkey made the correlation between the diminishing health of jeans factory workers and their work.
But reactions have been delayed.
Target is now exploring methods of distressing their denim that pre-date sandblasting which include scraping the fabric by hand.
Jey Joh, Target's head fabric engineer explained to Ecouterre.com: 'Textile workers can simply distress denim by hand – with safer tools – resulting in the same broken-in look.'
It may perhaps be a more laborious process but most consumers will agree, saving the lives of hard-working factory workers is worth every minute.