Chemical hazards in manufacturing

Chemical products, from plastic to clothing, including packaging, are at the centre of manufacturing.So how can we reduce the hazards?

Chemical hazards in manufacturing

Out of 33 million chemical substances, approximately 2000 are regulated. Why? Because they are harmful to people or the environment. Chemical products, from plastic to clothing, including packaging, are at the centre of manufacturing our products.So how can we prevent the risks?Let's take stock.

What is a chemical hazard? 

Chemical pollution is the product of artificial or natural substances that are hazardous to people or their environment (for example, hormone disruptors: bisphenols, pesticides, etc.). They can cause short-term visible reactions, such as allergies. But also have invisible longer-term effects: threatening our hormonal system and leading to illnesses.

The pollution can also be environmental. We find these in nature as a result of industrial chemical waste. Once in the water, the air or the soil, these toxic elements can impact biodiversity and, subsequently, us.

How does product design create a chemical hazard?

A t-shirt can have a colour, have prints, be water repellent... All these features come from chemical treatments. If most of the substances used are safe, it is however imperative to check the integrity at every stage (at the time of production, for the workers, when wastewater is released into the environment, at the time of storage, for Decathlon teams, when the product is being used by customers...).

If a substance has to be removed, it has to be done throughout the value chain.

How can we prevent these risks?

At Decathlon, the Quality team monitors the production of new compounds. Based on this work, they produce chemical specifications that suppliers undertake to comply with. They train them in making best use of them. After which, checks are carried out on location in the factories or directly on the products.

Chemical hazards in manufacturing

From this assessment was initiated the ZDHC project: zero discharge of hazardous chemical products.

"Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical" programme is a foundation of 170 contributors: clothing and footwear manufacturers, chemical producers or NGOs. What is the objective? Aim to discharge NO hazardous chemical products into the environment. In essence, bring about change on the suppliers' side. DECATHLON officially became part of this on the 14th of January 2022. The foundation brings us the skills and tools to better manage hazards in production. We also provide our expertise on the subject. For our customers, it's the assurance we are taking action to make the world safer. 

Concrete examples

Keep dry and in good health… PFC free!

We are nearly there: during the course of 2023, products sold in stores will no longer contain perfluorocarbon (PFC). Widely used in industry, these substances are found in water-repellent materials: jackets, shoes, swimwear...What's the problem? They are compounds referred to as "forever" chemicals that are very persistent in the environment and whose accumulation in the body can lead to health problems. For several years, different teams have been working on the goal to replace them and they are gradually being substituted. While tents and backpacks have made good progress, there still remains a lot of work to do on jackets and trousersWhy? It's not easy finding alternatives that are as resistant to machine washing!

Inflating 'Toluene-free' stand-up paddles

At DECATHLON, 100% of kayak and stand-up paddle manufacturing is toluene-free since 2022. What are they? It is a solvent in the glue used to assemble plastic layers of inflatable products. What's the issue? Over time this substance can alter men's eyesight and fertility.In factories, compulsory protective eyewear was not always being used by workers.So the product had to be withdrawn. The teams in charge of the process, after the approval of toxicologists, suggested a new glue reference to manufacturers. They are free to choose between it or select another product so long as it is guaranteed to be free of carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substances (CMR).The project's second benefit: some manufacturers and competitors review their practices and give it a try. And what if our teams' impetus leads to 100 % of the stand-up paddle market being Toluene free within 2 years?

Chemical hazards in manufacturing

An uncompromising approach to cleaning up wastewater

When "manufacturing pollution" is mentioned, CO2 quickly comes to mind. However, water made unfit for consumption due to chemical pollution can immediately impact humans health and the environment. DECATHLON's Sustainable Development teams have been raising awareness among suppliers and reinforcing checks. Some manufacturing steps make intensive use of chemical products: dyeing, tanning, and paper mills... Regular tests are therefore required to ensure the treated water discharged from the factory is cleaned up and usable for agriculture. Exceeding the standards, means exposing yourself to suspending production and putting a stop to shipments. 117 suppliers were audited in 2021 in line with our environmental compliance checklist. These are aligned with ZDHC standards, which are more stringent than regulations in force.

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