Bangladesh’s rivers are so polluted, they are turning black -- and our blue jeans are to blame

Wastewater from garment and dye factories in Bangladesh are turning the rivers there black -- rivers that once boasted diverse animal life, lush vegetation on river beds and shores, and beautiful clear flowing water are now essentially dead. All so that we can get that perfect pigment in our clothing. 

Because Bangladesh is the number two producer of garments in the world, just behind China, there are a huge number of clothing labels that are complicit in this attack on the country's precious ecosystems -- pollution regulations are weak there, and labels would much rather turn a blind eye to get a good price rather than pay more to give their factories and producers the power and ability to operate sustainably. Levi's, a global brand with huge sway in the industry and 20 factories operating in Bangladesh, is one such brand.

Tell Levi's to set an example and immediately stop all wastewater dumping from their factories in Bangladesh so that these dead rivers can live again!

A lot goes into getting your jeans to be that perfect blue. First of all, the entire process to make one pair of jeans uses up about 2,000 gallons of water, so this process already takes a huge toll on Bangladesh's water sources even before the polluting begins. The jeans are then submerged over and over in synthetic dye, after which they are treated with numerous chemicals to give them the right texture and shading -- chemicals including formaldehyde.

That water, filled with dyes, acids, bleach, and other chemicals, is then dumped directly into the fragile, interconnected rivers and lakes of Bangladesh.

These polluters kill the wildlife that live in the river, as well as the local animals that use it for drinking and bathing. Vegetation is either poisoned or blocked from the sun by the opaque dyes. The water leaks into irrigation systems, thus infusing the country's food sources with the toxins. It also runs into drinking sources, especially in lower income areas where shallow wells are used. Many of the chemicals used in garment dying are linked to heightened risks of cancer, skin diseases, and gastrointestinal issues. Heavy metals are present too, which build up in the body over time and have devastating consequences. 

People have reported that the water gives them sores, rashes, and even fevers. 

The impact on life is hard to even fathom, and the scope of the danger is almost unknowable. Water is a human right, as it is essential to supporting life itself. The garment industry is stealing that human right from the people and ecosystems of Bangladesh, all so they can charge you a bit more for that new pair of pants.

Tell Levi's to do the right thing and commit to funding their 20 factories in Bangladesh in transitioning to more sustainable practices, including the immediate halting of all wastewater dumping into the country's rivers and lakes!

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