“Are your jeans causing fatal lung disease?”, the leaflet asks. Bold black letters saying “Sandblasting Kills” look like the kind of warnings you get on cigarette packets. The message contains the group’s website, where people are encouraged to confront their favourite brands about what steps they are taking to stop sandblasting.
Labour Behind the Label has also developed a list that ranks brands and retailers according to their progress towards banning sandblasting in their supply chains. The three worst ranked are Dolce & Gabanna, Armani and Asda Geroge, who are refusing to take action. Gucci, on the other hand, got the most positive feedback and was praised for having issued public statements banning sandblasting, as well as for having implemented the ban by collaborating with trade union representatives in order to address the issue. Other brands such as Benetton, Burberry, C&A, H&M, Levi’s, New Look, Pepe Jeans and Matalan have all communicated a ban, although Labour Behind the Label are going to carefully monitor their progress in implementing the changes.
The sandblasting process consists of firing sand under high pressure at jeans, giving them a faded or worn out look. However, the problem is that this sand breaks down into fine silica sand particles which workers inhale and can thus often cause chronic, incurable or even fatal lung disease.