Garment makers' waste toxic in Africa

Aug. 2, 2009 at 9:34 PM
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MASERU, Lesotho, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- An environmental expert in Lesotho says U.S. companies' wastes are health risks to the country's people, who are already plagued by AIDS and other diseases.

The Sunday Times of London reported Chinese and Taiwanese companies serving large foreign garment manufacturers -- notably Gap Inc. and Levi Strauss & Co. -- were polluting water sources and dumping and burning toxic and otherwise dangerous materials, contrary to regulations prohibiting such activities.

Tseliso Tsoeu, an environmental expert on Lesotho's Council of Nongovernmental Organizations, said Lesotho law bans discharge of "any poisonous, toxic or chemical substance into our waters."

"The Chinese and Taiwanese have come here and have basically done what they wanted," Tsoeu said. "They make enormous profits from employing black Africans on behalf of respectable western companies who advertise the highest standards of production but in reality don't really know what is going on here."

Gap Inc. Senior Vice President of Global Responsibility Dan Henkle said the company ordered an investigation when it learned of complaints.

"We will act swiftly in doing everything possible to protect the workers at the factories that make our products and the communities in which they live and work," he said.

A spokesman for Levi Strauss & Co. said it was "clear the municipal landfill has not been secured" and the company will take steps to protect the community.

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