Jeans with the faded or worn out look achieved by sandblasting often retail for as much as 180% of the price of a normal denim. Yet the hidden cost is paid by sandblasting operators working in the countries such as Bangladesh, China, Mexico and Egypt, many of whom contract an acute form of the fatal lung disease silicosis due to fine silica particles gathering in the lung.
The report, released by workers’ rights group Labour Behind the Label, states that in Turkey alone, 47 former sandblasting operators are known to have died as a result of work related silicosis before the practice was banned by the government in April 2009. Doctors suspect that as many as 5,000 Turkish workers may be suffering from unreported instances of the disease as a direct result of this killer fashion trend.
Abdulhalim Demir, a former Turkish Sandblasting worker and father of 3 said: “All the workers who worked in this profession are sick now… My illness has progressed to 46 percent of my lungs. I can’t do physical work, I can’t run or climb. If I catch a cold, it is very dangerous for me. I am short of breath all the time and I can’t talk. In many cases I have to go to hospital for a month and get direct oxygen.”
“The trend for Killer Jeans must be phased out by companies and rejected by consumers” said Sam Maher, the report’s author. “Companies such as Asda George and River Island who are failing to engage have no excuse when the lives of thousands of workers are at risk.”
“Still, actions taken by companies alone will not be enough to cover the entire sector. We encourage governments to look into a possible importation ban for these jeans”, added Ms Maher.
Dr. Yesim Yasin of the Turkish Solidarity Committee seeking compensation for workers effected by the practice made further comment: “We also want these brands to take up responsibility for the damage done, and ensure that proper medical care and compensations are given to the victims of jeans sandblasting.”
Jeans brand Levi-Strauss and fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), among others have made public statements in the last six months announcing that they will stop selling sandblasted jeans.
Labour Behind the Label are today joining an international call to demand that all jeans brands stop selling sandblasted products with immediate effect, and take responsibility for workers already affected by performing medical checks and providing compensation for affected workers. Consumers are also encouraged to tell their favourite brands they won’t accept the practice of selling killer jeans.