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Big names in fashion cast doubt on the credibility of Greenpeace tests that point to presence of hazardous chemicals in children’s wear

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A Greenpeace activist in Budapest, Hungary, carries out a performance in a street protest on Tuesday in which she pretend to be sewing contaminated clothes with chemicals represented by little monsters. Photo: AFP

Manufacturers of children’s clothing have questioned the scientific basis of a test report from environmental activists that claims to have found harmful chemicals in their products.

Adidas, Gap, Disney and Burberry all said their goods complied with relevant health and safety laws and regulations.

Adidas expressed concern in a statement on Thursday that the report was “selective”.

“They purposefully reported about additional chemicals which were not found in the products,” It said. “This wrongly suggests that the tested products pose a health hazard to consumers. This approach lacks a scientifically sound basis.”

The company did not specify what the additional chemicals were. It said it would ask an independent test institute to verify the test results.

On Tuesday, Greenpeace environmentalists released the report saying hormone-interfering chemicals had been detected in 60 per cent of the 82 clothing samples they tested from 12 brands in 25 countries.

The substances they found included nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE), plasticisers and potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Four of the samples that had NPE – an Adidas sports shoe, a Burberry jacket, a Disney jacket and a Gap T-shirt – were sold in Hong Kong.

Gap said the Greenpeace report showed barely measurable levels of all the chemicals in question.

“For example, the allowable amount of phthalates for childcare articles and toys is 0.1 per cent and the maximum concentration of phthalates they found in Gap clothing was 0.004 per cent of the garment,” it said.

On Tuesday, Leung Ka-sing, a visiting associate professor at Polytechnic University’s department of applied biology and chemical technology, said a lack of regulations might mean the effects of the chemical were not very significant.

Leung said the health impact from bodily contact with the chemicals at the levels found would be small. It would stem mainly from their contamination of the environment, such as from manufacturing, washing or disposing of the products, affecting humans in other ways such as through the food chain.