Target to Ban Sandblasted Jeans

Discussion
Feb 29, 2012

People will go to great expense to look good, but there are times when the human cost is simply too high. A clear case-in-point is sandblasted jeans.

The process to create the look uses high-pressure machines to weather garments with crystalline silica. Inhalation of crystalline silica has been tied to an incurable lung disease in workers called silicosis.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, 40 garment workers in Turkey who were exposed to crystalline silica died between 2005 and 2009 (presumably from silicosis, although it’s not stated in the article). That nation banned its use in 2009.

Target has just announced it would end the sale of sandblasted jeans by year’s end and would continue the ban until a process is developed that doesn’t put garment workers at risk.

Jey John, the lead fabric engineer for denim and wash at the retailer, told A Bullseye View, Target’s blog, "The safety of factory workers should not be compromised for the sake of fashion. We hope that Target serves as a meaningful example to the apparel industry, both in the United States and around the world."

Levi Strauss was one of the first companies to end sandblasting.

"Factories that do not rigorously enforce proper health and safety standards for sandblasting put unsuspecting workers at risk," David Love, SVP & chief supply chain officer, Levi Strauss & Co., told A Bullseye View. "The best way we can help ensure no worker — in any garment factory — faces this risk is to move to end sandblasting."

Discussion Questions: Will the rest of the clothing industry follow the lead of Levi Strauss and Target in ending the process of sandblasting jeans? Should industry leaders bring pressure to bear on companies still engaged in sandblasting?

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17 Comments on "Target to Ban Sandblasted Jeans"


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Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
10 years 2 months ago

Wow, I didn’t realize that sandblasting was that dangerous. For something as non-essential as jeans, it’s terrible to think that people are dying or contracting lasting illnesses over a manufacturing process. I don’t know what Target and Levi’s have in combined market share to reach some kind of tipping point — they may need a few other companies to join in before it gets there. But it seems to me the gap here may be in public awareness, rather than with the manufacturers — someone needs to explain to the people out there looking for sandblasted jeans why they may not want them after all. If public demand evaporates, so does the process.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I salute Target for taking its stance on sandblasted jeans, and hope more retailers do the same. Target and Levi Strauss should undertake a campaign to educate consumers about the hazard of sandblasting, with the hope that other manufacturers and retailers will follow their lead. When consumers vote with their dollars, manufacturers and retailers listen.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

No — manufacturers will see this as an opportunity and retailers will see more exclusivity of a product that shoppers want.

Yes — they should bring more pressure to bear on safety measures, but then governments should too — this would be a good use of power.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I have no idea what the rest of the industry will do, but I hope Target and Levi’s let people know about this decision and the reason behind it. There is a group of consumers that make choices based upon causes so this decision would be important for them to know. Other consumers may be willing to change purchases based upon this knowledge.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Target has this one absolutely right. Chronic lung disease as a price of fashion is a tradeoff no responsible company should accept — here, or in third-world factories.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Target is right on “target” with this. I applaud them for being aggressive and taking the initiative to right a wrong.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 2 months ago

Coming from that fashion sector known as “Who Cares?” I could easily accept a fashion world free of sand-basted jeans. And if sandblasting is dangerous to workers, then let’s stop offering blasted pants and move on to other stylish fashions … even if we think that unfashionable is what other people wear.

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
10 years 2 months ago

Bravo…knowledge is power. Find a different way; human suffering is not acceptable!

Tony Orlando
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

What a shame that people are dying from this disease. I also applaud Target on this one, even as a free market guy. This process could be done safely in the right factory, with proper safety measures taken, but it would drive the price up even further. Make them safe or don’t make them at all.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
10 years 2 months ago
If Target wants to be consistent in ensuring the safety of those who produce the products that they carry, then they should institute a safety audit to review the impacts of production techniques, conditions, inputs and outputs of all the products that it carries within its stores. Announcing the banning of high-profile production techniques such as sandblasting doesn’t touch the surface of the potential health issues that foreign and domestic workers face as a result of the production of products that they carry. I’ve spent a good deal of time in factories of all types in Europe, Asia, SE Asia and Africa and can tell you that this is just the tip of the iceberg of direct and ancillary impacts of production. These types of announcements always smell a bit like a PR marketing ploy to me. Target appears to want to make the news with “feel good, we care” news bites. If they want this kind of approach to be more than just a one-off press release, it is going to take a sustained… Read more »
Lee Kent
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

This is the first I have heard about this, and I imagine it’s the same with much of the public. If public awareness were raised, I would bet the issue will resolve itself!

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I thought those jeans looked dumb, anyway. Kudos to those companies for bringing this to light!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

“Factories that do not rigorously enforce proper health and safety standards for sandblasting put unsuspecting workers at risk.” This would seem like an excellent opportunity to onshore this activity, where (presumably) there will be rigorous enforcement, and where the high cost — or at least the claim of high cost — will allow for an exponential increase in the selling price.

Of course a cynic might note that people die on the job all the time, building office buildings, driving delivery trucks, and — particularly — mining coal to heat our houses, and there’s no rush to stop the “consumption” of those products.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Yes, yes and yes. When major manufacturers and key retailers are both stopping the fabrication and purchasing of the same product, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the industry follows. Add to this the bans by entire countries, and you have a large impetus to not make or purchase these items.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
10 years 2 months ago

Good for Target and Levi Strauss. As soon as word gets out about the dangers of this fashion, it will become unfashionable.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Yes, industry leaders should bring pressure on other companies. Part of their moral compass should be to enforce safe working conditions for suppliers.

It is just good business.

David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
10 years 2 months ago

Ending sandblasting is probably a good thing, and if it is a “feel good” motive, then count on Target to be near the front of the parade. But as with all things industrial, agricultural, and just about every other way people make their livings, there is some risk involved. These case-by-case, high-profile actions send a bad message while answering few questions and addressing no issues.

In today’s story, 40 workers die over a 5-year period. That’s 40 out of how many workers in the sandblasting industry? How does that compare with other industrial jobs in Turkey? Also, once sandblasting jeans is ended in Turkey, how will the workers provide for themselves and their families? We all take risks and to outsiders, those risks may not be commensurate with the rewards. Many of us would gladly accept the hypertension-heart attack-substance abuse-suicide risks to potentially earn what movie star or hedge fund managers make, but you can’t put yourself in a sandblaster’s shoes until you walk a mile in them.

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