The fashion industry uses around 93 billion cubic meters (21 trillion gallons) of water annually, enough to fill 37 million Olympic swimming pools, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Along with finishing, dyeing is the most polluting and energy-intensive processes involved in making our clothes.
Textile wet processing is when chemicals or treatments are applied to the fabric to give it the desired look or feel — such as bleaching, softening, or making the garment water-resistant or anti-wrinkle. Large amounts of water and chemicals are also used during dyeing, to ensure vivid colors bind to the fabric and don’t fade or wash out.
The textile dyes significantly compromise the quality of water bodies, increase biochemical and chemical oxygen demand (BOD and COD), impair photosynthesis, inhibit plant growth, enter the food chain, provide recalcitrance, and bioaccumulation, and may promote toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity.
Fashion is responsible for up to one-fifth of industrial water pollution, thanks in part to weak regulation and enforcement in producer countries like China, India and Bangladesh, where wastewater is commonly dumped directly into rivers and streams. The discharge is often a cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals, dyes, salts, and heavy metals that not only hurt the environment but pollute essential drinking water sources.
The fashion industry of hazardous chemicals is likely to become even more challenging as our clothing addiction increases. Apparel consumption is set to rise by 63% to 102 million tons a year in 2030, according to a 2017 Pulse of the Fashion report. Every season we know that the fashion industry needs to highlight new colors,” and “each time you have a new color you’re going to use more, new kinds of chemicals, dyestuffs, and pigments
Once wet processing of textiles has done the cheapest way for factories to get rid of unusable, chemical-laden wastewater is to dump it into nearby rivers and lakes.
Water pollution from the textile industry is a huge problem across garment-producing countries, most of which are found in Asia due to its huge pool of cheap labor. Workers and people living close to factories often bear the brunt of the pollution. Gastrointestinal problems and skin diseases are among the common ailments that he attributes directly to textile pollution. The chemicals used to dye clothes also impact garment workers who, in some factories, don’t have adequate protective clothing and may inhale toxic fumes
But change is happening. In many fashion producing countries, there are signs textile producers are taking environmental responsibility more seriously, with brands committing to initiatives, countries have also been taking steps with a range of tough new environmental policies. Such efforts have improved water quality in some countries but toxic and polluted water still persists in parts of the garment-producing countries
Source: CNN/the science direct