Impact of Dye

The toxic chemicals used to create and dye textiles are major sources of pollution. It is estimated that 20% of global industrial water pollution originates with dyeing.

The toxic chemicals used to create and dye textiles are major sources of pollution. It is estimated that 20% of global industrial water pollution originates with dyeing.

Chemical Compounds & Dyes

The toxic chemicals used to create textiles are major sources of pollution from textile factory operations. Factories use polyvinyl chloride to size fabrics, chlorine bleach to lighten a fabric’s color, benzidine and toluidine as dyeing agents and flame retardants that are known cancer-causing agents.

Other toxic chemicals that are used in everyday operations are formaldehyde, lead and mercury. Fabrics are washed and rewashed as they move down the production line. Releasing this untreated chemical wastewater brew can pollute waterways and groundwater sources.

water pollution

Altogether, more than half a trillion gallons of fresh water are used in the dyeing of textiles each year. The dye wastewater is discharged, often untreated, into nearby rivers, where it reaches the sea, eventually spreading around the planet. China discharges roughly 40 percent of these chemicals.

The World Bank estimated that almost 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. In 2010, China’s textile industry discharged 2.5 billion tons of wastewater.

New technologies, such as waterless dye technologies have been developed, but have not yet been deployed at most manufacturing sites and are extremely expensive. There are other creative alternatives such as pre-colored cotton (meaning it grows as a color), natural plant and vegetable dyed items and closed loop recycled fabrics, however these alternatives have yet been able to catch up to the industry’s enormous volume requirement for raw materials.

READ ABOUT THE IMPACT OF DISPOSABLE FASHION