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New Report Exposes Dangers of Potassium Permanganate in Turkish Factories

The adverse health effects of potassium permanganate (PP) spray have long been a stain on denim’s storied history. Laser finishing helps eliminate the chemical spray, but it is still widely in use. And that’s why Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey (CCC) is calling for change on behalf of workers in the denim manufacturing industry.

The organization released a report documenting the harmful effects of PP spray on workers doing denim bleaching. The 21-page study, Bleached Denim, Bleached Souls, investigates the nature of the substance, which is a popular alternative to sandblasting in Turkish garment manufacturing companies.

The report shines a light on the conditions faced by workers—who are often from Pakistan and have migrated to Turkey to work, sometimes illegally—and details their subsequent health issues, including respiratory and skin conditions. According to researchers interviewed in the report, respiratory diseases like Byssinosis and Silicosis have been traced back to the preparation and application of the chemical, and are often misdiagnosed as a result of the patient’s reluctance to provide employment background.

CCC also found a lack of inspection practices and safety protocols within the factories and workshops investigated. Further, as the report noted, there were occasions when workers need medical attention and were not properly cared for.

The CCC is calling on further research from medical professionals to better treat and diagnose occupational diseases, as well as legislative professionals who can implement regulations to keep workers safe. Since 1989, the organization has been committed to improving working conditions in the global garment industry.

Most recently, CCC challenged H&M’s living wage claims, reporting that the retailer is trying to “evade responsibility and focusing on successes that have little or nothing to do with what was described in the original roadmap and with actual wage improvements for workers.”