Endless harmfull chemicals are used and worn in the fashion industry and their supply chain daily

Fertilizers and pesticides during cultivation

In the cultivation of natural fibres such as cotton, chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides are used on a large scale. These substances can lead to soil degradation, water pollution and damage to wildlife and human health, as they are toxic.

Spinning, dyeing & washing

In the production process, spinning, dyeing, and washing of textiles involve the use of numerous chemicals, including dyes, solvents, and finishing agents. These chemicals can cause significant environmental pollution, contaminating water bodies and posing health risks to workers and nearby communities.

During the use and through regular washing

Even after purchase, clothing can continue to release harmful chemicals during regular washing. Microplastics and residual chemicals can leach into water systems, impacting aquatic life and contributing to long-term ecological damage.

let´s face the facts

millions of tons of chemicals are used in the fashion industry every year
grams of chemicals are used for a T-shirt made of conventional cotton
different chemicals are used in the textile industry.

8 Chemicals that are used in the fashion supply chain

According to the European Textile Labeling Regulation, labels are not obliged to inform consumers about the chemicals used in production that may be harmful to themselves or the environment. However, a large number of harmful chemicals are used in production. Here is a small selection of the chemicals used in the supply chain:

  • Field of application: Washing and auxiliary agent
  • Act similarly as oestrogens and can interfere with the development of the reproductive organs of fish and other aquatic organisms.
  • Partially banned in the EU (e.g. nonylphenols since 2005)
  • Field of application: Dyeing and printing of textiles
  • May be toxic by inhalation or skin contact and cause long-term liver damage, central nervous system damage and cancer. They are also persistent in the environment and can bioaccumulate and contaminate water and air. 
  • Chlorobenzenes, particularly certain mono- and dichlorobenzene variants, are partially banned or strictly regulated in the EU and Germany (EUR-Lex)​​ (Homepage – ECHA)​.
Organotin compounds
  • Field of application: Stabilizers and catalysts in the production of plastics
  • Organotin compounds can damage the immune system and the endocrine system and cause neurotoxic effects. They are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, difficult to break down and accumulate in the food chain.
  • Strictly regulated in the EU by the REACH Regulation (EC No. 1907/2006) and banned in certain applications according to Annex XVII.

Short-chain chlorinated kerosenes (SCCPs)
  • Field of application: Plasticizers and flame retardants in plastics and textile coatings
  • SCCPs are potentially carcinogenic and can damage the liver and nervous system. They are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, accumulate in the environment and adversely affect aquatic ecosystems and the reproductive capacity of aquatic organisms.
  • Strictly regulated in the EU by the REACH Regulation (EC No. 1907/2006) and banned in certain applications according to Annex XVII.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFC)
  • Field of application: To make textiles water-, grease- and dirt-repellent
  • They are persistent and bioaccumulative, which means that they accumulate in the environment and in organisms and persist over long periods of time. PFCs can impair the immune system, cause hormonal disorders and are potentially carcinogenic.
  • In the EU, PFCs, in particular perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and related compounds, have been largely banned in textiles by the REACH Regulation (Annex XVII) since July 2020.
Chlorinated solvents
  • Field of application: Cleaning, degreasing, dyeing and finishing of fabrics
  • They can cause cancer, damage the central nervous system and cause liver and kidney damage. Environmentally, they are persistent and contaminate water sources, leading to far-reaching negative effects on ecosystems.
  • In the EU, chlorinated solvents are regulated by the REACH Regulation (EC No. 1907/2006). Certain chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene are restricted or banned under Annex XVII.
Heavy metals
  • Field of application: For dyes, pigments and for fixing colors as well as in leather tanning and metallic accessories
  • They can have toxic effects on the nervous system, kidneys and other organs and are potentially carcinogenic. Environmentally, they are persistent and bioaccumulative and thus have a harmful effect on the ecosystem.
  • In the EU, heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and chromium VI are regulated by the REACH Regulation (EC No. 1907/2006). These substances are restricted or banned in accordance with Annex XVII.

Campaign AA – Detoxdenim

Questions to Armedangels: Interview with
Raisa Tamer

The aim of our DetoxDenim campaign is to provide a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to a wide customer audience in the fashion industry, specifically in denim production. We strive to eliminate harmful chemicals and pesticides from our production process, ensuring that our products are not only environmentally friendlier but also safer for the wearer’s health. By focusing on sustainability, we hope to encourage more conscious consumer behavior and contribute to a healthier planet.

We have removed a range of harmful chemicals, including azo dyes, phthalates, PFCs, chlorine, and potassium permanganate. Instead, we use non-toxic dyes and organic enzymes. For distressing denim, we use laser and ozone technologies, which reduce the need for water and harmful chemicals. Additionally, we use certified organic cotton that meets GOTS standards, avoiding synthetic pesticides entirely.

We maintain strict oversight of our supply chain through regular audits and third-party certifications (Fair Wear Foundation). Our suppliers must adhere to a list of banned substances aligned with GOTS standards. We also require our suppliers to implement effective wastewater management systems. Frequent inspections and comprehensive traceability systems help us ensure compliance with our stringent environmental and social criteria.

Implementing the DetoxDenim initiative posed several challenges, particularly in identifying and adopting suitable alternatives to traditional chemicals that maintain our high product standards. Collaborating with suppliers to ensure they meet our new environmental criteria required substantial effort, including training and support. Overhauling established production processes to integrate more sustainable practices also demanded investment in new technologies and methods.

Our DetoxDenim initiative has considerably reduced water consumption by employing water-saving technologies like closed-loop systems and waterless dyeing methods. Advanced water treatment processes are in place to purify water before it is discharged, ensuring minimal environmental impact. By using techniques like laser and ozone bleaching, we further decrease the reliance on water and harmful chemicals in our production process.

We believe the fashion industry can transition to less environmentally harming production methods, but it requires collective action. Key steps include investing in sustainable technologies, establishing and enforcing stricter regulatory standards, increasing transparency in supply chains, and raising consumer awareness about sustainable fashion. Collaboration across the industry, from manufacturers to consumers, is essential to drive this transformation effectively.

To enhance the sustainability of our products, we plan to increase our use of recycled and upcycled materials, improve our packaging, and continue investing in research and development for more sustainable innovations. Innovation is central to our strategy, enabling us to discover and implement new methods and materials that further reduce our environmental impact while maintaining high quality and aesthetic standards. Our commitment to continuous improvement ensures we remain at the forefront of sustainable fashion.