Jan 9, 2010

Posted in Life Truth | 39 Comments

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The Truth about Denim Blue Jeans

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denim blue jeans, blue jeans, jeans pantsYo ho ho,

Here I am again exposing you to a new truth. This may even piss you off especially if you love wearing jeans. I never wear them, not because I’m too snooty but because I don’t care for uniforms. And you gotta admit that just about every body and their relatives are wearing jeans. Maybe even you.

I’m telling you that a pair of jeans is not exactly eco friendly. Just think you need denim, dye, brass buttons, a zip, yarn and labor to produce a pair of jeans.

The Beginning

So lets start at the beginning which would be the cotton required to spin into denim. Supplying the population with jeans requires big time cotton plantations. Growing the cotton for a single pair of jeans requires +- 1500 gallons of water. Finishing and dyeing the denim requires extra water. Cotton production uses 25% of insecticides applied worldwide. Further more seriously toxic organophosphate is used. If you’re wondering what an organophosphate is, think of World War II and nerve gases. Yip it’s a chemical relative of nerve gases.

Besides all that the cotton needs to be sprayed and harvested which requires equipment. This equipment needs oil….
Denim Manufacture

After the cotton is harvested and spun into yarn it is modified with starch to make it stronger for weaving. It is also washed in oil derived paraffin to make it smooth and lubricate it. To give it a worn look it is “mercerized” in caustic soda. Caustic soda burns workers and kills aquatic life. Nice stuff.

Generally starch is biodegradable. The problem is that the microbes which are in the water which eat the starch consume oxygen. This means that the aquatic life already in the water is robbed of it’s oxygen supply.

A pair of jeans undergoes many chemical treatments besides starching. The dyes to make them blue also have to be considered.


To get jeans blue, synthetic indigo is used which is often made from oil or coal. Uugh now I have even more reason not to cover my bod with them blue jeans. Machines have been invented that can accurately measure the concentration of dye in a solution. This way the manufacturer can recycle the spent dye by adding just the right amount of fresh dye. Unfortunately most of the jeans are produced in developing countries where they do not use these machines, there are no environmental policies, plus dyes and water are inexpensive. The old dye is usually just poured into nearby rivers. Water samples from textile plants often reveal that cadmium, mercury, selenium and lead are present in the water. This obviously is detrimental for farmers who are growing produce along the river banks.

Zips and Rivets

Yip more mining is required to come up with the zinc and copper for the brass which fashion the rivets, buttons and zips. The extraction and processing isn’t exactly environmental friendly unless of course you like to breathe air which is laden with lead and cadmium.

Stone Washing

Seriously faded and fucked up jeans aren’t really washed on a big stone along the river. Rather they are washed and rinsed a couple of times, using water and energy for each cycle. Some times the denim is blasted or sanded with silica. Or even nicer is when the dye is stripped with potassium permanganate. Manufacturers don’t hesitate to use enzymes which take the oxygen out of the water if they are not dumped correctly. Further more workers are exposed to denim and silica dust when scrubbing jeans, which causes inflammation of the lungs and silicosis. A recent study conducted in Turkey showed that more than half of the denim sand blasters had signs of silicosis after having been on the job for just 36 months.

Organic Jeans

Generally the only good thing about eco jeans is that the cotton is organically grown and the indigo dye is not synthetic. Even so the pigment Indigofera tinctoria is only found in 1 percent of all indigo dyes and does not dissolve in water which means chemical solvents are required to turn it into a liquid dye.

Some eco manufacturers rather use ozone than silica and caustic soda to fade jeans. By exposing oxygen to ultra violet light ozone is created. It is mixed with steam or dissolved in the washing water. In a sealed chamber it is sprayed onto the denim. The fabric reacts with the ozone and breaks down giving it the faded look.

Often recycled metals are used for the rivets, buttons and zips on eco jeans.

Even so I still won’t wear blue jeans, not even organic ones.

So do you think I’m a square for not wearing jeans?

Truthfully yours

P.S. A reader sent me this video which is very apt, have a looky.

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  1. Emma_Jane says:

    Until I read this post I never even thought about how my jeans are manufactured.

  2. Well now you know!

  3. Here’s a relevant video about the same topic – Turkey’s Killer Jean Industry – http://www.vjmovement.com/truth/529

  4. Great info, thanks for useful article. I’m waiting for more

  5. Claudia says:

    Hey thanks for visiting.

    I will get around to uncovering some more truth soon.

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