Target will halt sale of sandblasted jeans for ethical reasons

Your hot jeans could be killing people.
Your hot jeans could be killing people.

Target has announced that by the end of 2012, shoppers won't be able to find the weathered, whiskery-style jeans that all the kids are (were five years ago?) wearing. At least, not the washes that were created by a technique called "sandblasting."

That's because human rights organizations are putting pressure on retailers and designers worldwide to make the practice unfashionable. They say the technique causes a lung-shredding condition called silicosis in factory workers in countries like Turkey, Bangladesh, China, and Mexico.

In response this week, the Target blog reads, "The lived-in look that makes a new pair of distressed jeans . . . comes at great cost to the garment workers who make them."

Sandblasting is just what it sounds like -- high-pressure air hoses fire sand at the denim to give it a worn-out look. The sand is about 80 percent silica in some cases, and advocates say that even with safety gear, workers breathe it in. After prolonged exposure, the workers start to develop tuberculosis-like symptoms: shortness of breath, fever, coughing. In Turkey, 46 deaths have been attributed to silicosis from sandblasted jean factories, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Yesterday, Target joined designers like Armani and Levi's in pledging not to make or sell sandblasted jeans. That doesn't mean gelled-up club-goers will be denied their whiskery wares:

To take a step towards safety Target took a step back to the days before sandblasting technologies to discover alternative methods. One such method is hand sanding. Textile workers can simply distress denim by hand - with safer tools - resulting in the same broken-in look.

(Here's another idea for the worn-out look:  wear them.)

Read Target's entire statement here.

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