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-