Nonylphenol ethoxylates are commonly used for washing textiles at different stages of the manufacturing process.
A byproduct of the chemical, nonylphenol, is toxic for marine life and has harmful hormonal effects.
While the European Union currently bans the use of nonylphenol ethoxylates, there is no legislation limiting the import of goods, such as textiles and clothes, which may contain the chemical.
SSNC examined a sample of 20 t-shirts in hopes of explaining why nonylphenol ethoxylates are still being detected in the sludge fount at Swedish water treatment plants.
Their investigation revealed that 19 of the 20 samples had traces of nonylphenol ethoxylates and that it was extracted from the t-shirts’ screen printing.
T-shirts produced outside the EU generally had higher levels of nonylphenol ethoxylates, but that even t-shirts marked with eco-friendly labels contained traces of the substance, although at lower levels.
“The negative environmental and health effects of nonylphenol ethoxylates have been known for a long time. Therefore it’s worrying that textile companies don’t have control over what their imported clothing contains,” said SSNC head Mikael Karlsson in a statement.
T-shirt brands found by SSNC to have the highest levels of nonylphenol ethoxylates were Just a Fucking T-Shirt, Levis, Puma, and Worn by Original.
A second Puma t-shirt purchased from a different retailed was the only sample in which no traces of the substance were detected.