10/08/2011 10:48 BST | Updated 09/10/2011 06:12 BST

Greenpeace Unveils Report on how top Clothing Brands are Polluting China's Rivers

When you buy fashion garments and accessories, do you always think about how much pressure their production puts on the environment? Greenpeace has produced a report intended to make you think twice.

The non-governmental environment organisation released new evidence that suggests that the suppliers of major clothing brands, including sportswear giants Adidas, Nike and Li Ning, are polluting rivers part of the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas in China. Greenpeace's 'Dirty Laundry' report, researched and investigated over a one-year period, claims that hazardous chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties have been found in wastewater samples from two factory complexes that supply these and other global fashion brands.

Laboratory testing found a cocktail of hazardous chemicals that have no place in the natural environment. These include nonylphenols (a subset of alkylphenols) and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), in wastewater samples from the Youngor Textile Complex on the Yangtze River Delta and the Well Dyeing Factory on the Pearl River Delta. Alkylphenols and PFCs have hormone-disrupting properties and can be hazardous even at low levels.

And if you think that China may be too far away for this to affect you, Greenpeace urges you to think again. These chemicals are persistent in the environment, can move up through the food chain, and can travel great distances via air and water currents. Because of this, alkylphenols and some PFCs are restricted by the EU and international conventions. Nevertheless, they are still widely used by the textiles industry in developing countries such as China, where they have yet to be restricted.

Greenpeace's report comes at a time when an estimated 70% of China's rivers, lakes and reservoirs are affected by water pollution, with consequences to the environment, wildlife and local people. The clothing industry is making it worse by pouring hazardous chemicals into the mix. To mark the launch of a global campaign that aims to push clothing brands and their suppliers to achieve "zero hazardous discharge", Greenpeace activists put up banners with the campaign slogan "Detox" on the main entrances of Adidas' and Nike's flagship stores in Beijing.

The good news is that Puma, the world's third largest sportswear brand, has responded to Greenpeace's challenge to 'detox'. The brand has announced its commitment to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from its entire product lifecycle and across its global supply chain by 2020. This move puts it firmly ahead of its competitors in the race for a toxic-free future.