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Environmental Health study shows fast fashion’s negative effects

Fast fashion disproportionately and negatively affects the environment in countries where garments are assembled including Bangladesh and India, said a recent report by the journal Environmental Health.

“From the growth of water-intensive cotton, to the release of untreated dyes into local water sources, to worker’s low wages and poor working conditions, the environmental and social costs involved in textile manufacturing are widespread,” wrote Christine Ekenga, an assistant professor at the Washington University in the US, for Environmental Health. The report names Bangladesh and China as the main producers of fast fashion, as well as India. Ekenga stated that the oversupply of fast fashion has created an environmental and social crisis in the countries that manufacture the low-cost clothing. Around 80 billion new items of clothing are bought a year globally and the US is the largest buyer of fast fashion, according to the report. “This is a massive problem. The disproportionate environmental and social impacts of fast fashion warrant its classification as an issue of global environmental injustice,” said Ekenga. The report states that each step of the fast fashion supply chain is wrought with problems. “While fast fashion offers consumers an opportunity to buy more clothes for less, those who work in or live near textile manufacturing facilities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental health hazards,” said the report. The report also mentions the millions of tonnes of textiles dumped in unregulated landfills, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) which, according to Ekenga, “often lack the supports and resources necessary to develop and enforce environmental and occupational safeguards to protect human health.” This problem has been especially prevalent in India with environmental damage surrounding textile manufacturing plants reported across the country. As a way forward, the report suggested a number of ways to help including using sustainable textiles, promoting corporate sustainability and trade policy, and changing consumer buying habits.

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