Monday, April 27, 2015

The downside of sandblasting

Sandblasting in progress (c) Tellason
Pete Searson and Tony Patella, the Founders of Tellason, talk about a practice called Sandblasting and the harmful effect it has on the people who are involved in the task of creating a pair of denims with a "sandblasted" effect. While most people find these pairs of pants as must-haves for their wardrobes, they are effectively a product of dangerous practices with harmful impacts on people involved in the process. 


What is sandblasting all about, when it comes to denims? 
Sandblasting is a process used to give jeans a distressed and pre-worn look. During this process, workers shoot abrasive sand onto denim jeans under high pressure. Because sandblasting is fast, cheap and easy, this method is preferred by international manufacturers.

Why is sandblasting a harmful practice, and in what way does it affect people?
Without proper ventilation and the right safety equipment, sandblasting can lead to severe risk of lung cancer and eventually death. The International Labour Organization estimates that every year, nearly 2.3 million people will lose their life due to horrible workplace conditions and an astonishing 160 million will contract occupational diseases. One deadly contribution to this statistic is international practice of sandblasting.


Are there any labour laws or labour conditions that prohibit sandblasting?
The use of sandblasting increased when the distressed denim trend took off in the 1990’s. When the Turkish government saw that a high number of denim workers were dying from sandblasting, they banned the practice in 2009. By 2010, 40 major denim brands including Levi-Strauss & Co, H&M, Armani and Versace announced their own ban on sandblasting in efforts to end the fatal approach.


In your research, you've found certain health consequences from sandblasting. What are they? Can they be fatal?
The International Labour Organization estimates that every year, nearly 2.3 million people will lose their life due to horrible workplace conditions and an astonishing 160 million will contract occupational diseases. One deadly contribution to this statistic is international practice of sandblasting. Without proper ventilation and the right safety equipment, sandblasting can lead to severe risk of lung cancer and eventually death.


Is banning sandblasting the solution?
In our opinion, no. The ban on sandblasting may have decreased the amount of sandblasting overall, but by assuming that this is the solution to our problem, we are completely missing the bigger picture. Banning sandblasting does not mean the practice no longer exists-- in fact, it is very much alive and will continue to negatively impact the lives of international denim workers unless we build awareness around the issue and work to end the practice for good.

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