By The Editors
Sandblasting is used to make new blue jeans look distressed. Unfortunately, sandblasting kills people.
In 2011, a rigorous study published in the journal Chest showed that formerly healthy young people exposed to silica sand, used in the sandblasting of jeans, developed silicosis — a disabling and potentially fatal lung disease for which there is no cure. The young people either became disabled or died.
According to the American Lung Association, “Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling tiny bits of silica. Silica is a common mineral that is part of sand, rock and mineral ores like quartz. People who work in jobs where they could breathe in these tiny silica bits—like sandblasting, mining, construction and many others—are at risk for silicosis.”
Sandblasting jeans involves forcefully projecting a stream of abrasive particles (silica) onto a surface (jeans) with compressed air. The force of the abrasion rubs off the indigo-dyed fibers.
When small silica dust particles are inhaled, they can embed themselves deeply into the lungs, causing silicosis, which is characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever, and cyanosis.
The study was carried out in Turkey. The investigators concluded “It is important to draw global attention to this occupation to prevent new silicosis cases in other countries.” That year, Turkish health authorities banned sandblasting jeans.
Many companies, including Levi Strauss & Co, H&M, Benetton, Armani and many others, have banned sandblasting from their supply chains. Hopefully, a truly global, enforceable ban will soon be up and running. The Clean Clothes Campaign, an alliance of organizations in 15 European countries, has been working very hard to raise awareness and make this ban possible. .
Should we give up the distressed look? Not necessarily. An Italian company, the Fimatex Group, has developed an eco-friendly process to obtain the distresses look. The process is called eco-aging and uses a vegetable mix composed of the waste from the food chain. The vegetable mix is 100% biodegradable (environmental impact zero) and allows us to conclude with a good example of corporate social responsibility.