Deadly denim

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HEALTH - By SHAFIQ ALAM

Sand­blast­ing jeans comes un­der fire in bangladesh for pos­ing health risks to gar­ment work­ers.

SU­MAN Howlader was thrilled to land a job in a Bangladeshi fac­tory sand­blast­ing new jeans to make them look old, but he now be­lieves the dik­tats of fash­ion have ex­acted a heavy toll on his health.

Af­ter work­ing for three years, he started vom­it­ing blood, cough­ing badly and strug­gling to breathe be­fore be­ing ad­mit­ted to a spe­cial­ist res­pi­ra­tory hos­pi­tal in Dhaka.

Work­ers’ groups say Howlader and many oth­ers like him have been mis­di­ag­nosed as suf­fer­ing from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis be­cause of ig­no­rance about sil­i­co­sis – an in­cur­able dis­ease caused by in­hala­tion of sil­ica par­ti­cles.

The minute, fast-mov­ing par­ti­cles are re­leased dur­ing sand­blast­ing, a process used to give new jeans the “worn” look that has been pop­u­lar for many years around the world.

Sand­blast­ing has long been banned in Europe and the United States, but Bangladesh’s cheap labour gar­ment fac­to­ries still use it to con­di­tion jeans for top Western brands.

Gucci, Levi’s, H&M and Gap have all vowed to stop sell­ing sand­blasted prod­ucts, while Dolce & Gab­bana has been tar­geted in an In­ter­net cam­paign to take a sim­i­lar stance.

“One day, when I was work­ing, blood started gush­ing out of my mouth and nose,” said Howlader from his hos­pi­tal bed.

“They told me the work was safe. But the con­stant sand­blast­ing made the room fill up with dust and sand. You end up swal­low­ing and in­hal­ing a lot of it.”

Howlader fired high-pres­sure sand at denim jeans with just a cloth mask for pro­tec­tion, treat­ing 200 to 300 pairs in a 10-

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