Nordic-Based Clothing Manufacturer Acts On Silver Scare

Haglöfs , the largest Nordic supplier of outdoor equipment including sports clothes, recently stated that it will stop manufacturing clothes containing germ killing silver particles due to the negative impact on health and environment.

Many manufacturers are now treating clothes and shoes with potentially harmful substances—including silver—to kill germs and reduce the smell of sweat.

Ten to 15 percent of Europe’s silver emissions derive from consumer products. That equals 220 ton of silver nano particles per year, according to the Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

Europe is at the forefront of health and environment regulation, with laws like REACH and RoHS. It’s overtaken the United States, which used to lead the way in such regulation, says Berkeley professor and author David Vogel.

Vogel’s new book The Politics of Precaution details the politics of consumer and environmental risk regulation in the U.S. and Europe over the last five decades and explains why America and Europe have often regulated a wide range of similar risks differently.

The dangers of silver nano particles have long been known. Silver can be toxic. It also decreases the effectiveness of antibiotics, and that’s bad news.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 25,000 people in the European Union die every year because of serious infection caused by resistant bacteria acquired in hospitals. With increased resistance to antibiotics, society could return to the days when a simple lung infection killed a child.

As consumers, it’s difficult to know which products contain silver. Antimicrobial, free of bacteria, for lasting freshness, hygienic protection, keeps the natural hygienic balance, treated against odor, prevents discoloring, or Argentum, are all buzz words and terms you might want to question.

I am a recent fan of running. This fall I wanted to buy a running jacket here in my hometown of Lund, Sweden. The sales assistants in every clothing store I visited didn’t seem to have any clue about which brands contained silver or other toxic substances.

No big surprise there.

But manufactures themselves should be keeping track of and documenting source materials through the supply chain not only to meet the growing legal requirements of health and environmental regulation, but also to better answer questions from savvy consumers.

Should manufacturers do more to track and disclose the materials in their products?

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