Fashion Victims

You might think sandblasted jeans are trendy. Too bad they’re also making workers sick.

These workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, sandblast jeans to produce fashionable creases and fades. But sand contains silica, which can cause a disabling lung disease called silicosis when inhaled. Many major brands—including, most recently, Versace—say they’ve cracked down on using silica. But some, like Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, and Roberto Cavalli, have “remained totally indifferent” to requests to eliminate sandblasted clothes, according to the Italian spokeswoman of the anti-silica Clean Clothes Campaign. On top of that, policing the supply chain is a tall order. This facility’s owner claimed some of his jeans were headed for Gap, H&M, and Walmart; meanwhile, Levi’s and H&M have since declared a global ban on silica use at their facilities.

Workers sandblast denim in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Collecting sand at the sandblasting factory.

Workers talk while one continues sandblasting denim.

Workers sandblast denim in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A worker at the Dhaka sandblasting facility.