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Greenpeace Finds Toxic Chemicals in World Cup Merchandise

As buzz surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil heats up, major sportswear brands Nike, Puma and Adidas are under fire by Greenpeace Germany for testing positive for trace amounts of potentially hazardous chemicals in World Cup merchandise.

In a new Greenpeace report titled, “A Red Card for Sportswear Brands,” independent testing reveals perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates and dimethylformamide (DMF) were found in 33 products spanning cleats, T-shirts, goalkeeper gloves and official World Cup soccer ball chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormonal problems or can be toxic to reproduction.

The use of these chemicals during the manufacture of sportswear items such as football boots, gloves and shirts for the World Cup 2014 will lead to the release of these hazardous chemicals into waterways in the countries of production, as well as throughout their life cycle in the countries where the products were sold, the report noted.

According to the study, ionic PFCs were detected in 17 of the 21 soccer cleats and half of the goalkeeper gloves. The official “Brazuca” ball and two-thirds of the footwear tested contained NPEs, a substance toxic to fish. Phthalates and DMF used as a solvent in footwear manufacturing were found in all of the cleats.

Previous Greenpeace research dating back to 2011 has consistently found dangerous chemicals from the three brands. The new research confirms that despite ramped up efforts by the organization’s Detox campaign, an initiative to eliminate all hazardous chemicals by 2020 signed by 20 fashion labels including Nike, Adidas and Puma, companies and governments still need comprehensive plans.

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Puma has been highlighted as a leader for implementing a credible action plan, but the report suggests that there’s work still to be done. “In contrast, although Adidas and Nike have made commitments to Detox and promote themselves as Detox brands, neither of them have an effective plan to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals within their supply chains or their products,” the report noted. After Adidas’ Predator cleat, Nike’s Tiempo contained the highest levels of PFOA. A pair of Predator gloves also tested for levels of the substance in excess of Adidas’ own limits.

“Despite committing to Detox two years ago, there is insufficient evidence of any credible outcomes on the ground for either Adidas or Nike. Each of these companies has repeatedly rejected its responsibility to take individual corporate action to eliminate any of the hazardous chemicals identified and to provide credible transparency to the public,” the report noted.

In the study, the organization calls for credible action by companies, matched with regulatory action from governments, to send a potent message to the textile industry. Specifically, Greenpeace demands immediate action from Adidas and Nike. “With over 80 percent of the World Cup merchandise market between them–their influence on global supply chains for textiles and sporting goods is significant.”