Target says it will stop selling sandblasted denim by year’s end


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Most people who wear distressed denim didn’t do the distressing themselves. They bought it that way off the shelf. It’s an effect often created with sandblasting, a technique that blasts crystalline silica onto blue jeans using high-pressure machines.

Cool as that makes the blue jeans look, it has decidedly negative consequences for the garment workers who make them. Breathing the air in close proximity to sandblasting can cause the incurable lung disease silicosis, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign, a Netherlands-based advocacy group dedicated to improving working conditions in the global garment industry.


Even with strict safety standards and protective gear, garment workers are still at risk from sandblasting, according to Patty Reber, director of raw materials development for product design and development with Minneapolis-based Target Corp.

On Tuesday, Target announced that by late 2012 it would stop carrying any products that have been sandblasted during the manufacturing process. Target, which operates 1,762 stores, has teamed with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to investigate responsible sourcing solutions. [Updated Feb. 29, 2012, 7:51 a.m.: The original version of this post said Target and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition were investigating sandblasting alternatives. The two organizations have partnered to identify sustainable and responsible sourcing solutions, generally, but not specific to sandblasting.]

Target’s announcement follows Levi Strauss & Co. of San Francisco and Swedish-based retailer H&M which, in September 2010, collaborated to implement a global ban on sandblasting in all of their future product lines. The International Textile Garment and Leather Worker’s Federation found that 7,000 garment workers in Turkey had been exposed to crystalline silica and 40 of them died between 2005 and 2009; the Turkish government banned the use of crystalline silica in 2009.


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-- Susan Carpenter