Denim Deadly for Some Turkish Workers

blue jeans store display photo

Photo via Tony Hisgett at flickr

In the fashion parade that is İstiklal Caddesi, the massively popular pedestrian shopping street running through Istanbul's Beyoğlu district, denim is the undisputed king. And you don't see too many plain pairs of Levi's here, either--more often, jeans are artfully ripped, thick with embroidery, covered with pockets, dyed, distressed, or bedazzled to death. While some of the craziest styles risk making fashion victims of their wearers, the trend for manually sandblasted jeans is taking real victims in manufacturing facilities.

Today's Zaman reports that hundreds of workers have contracted silicosis, a deadly lung disease common to miners, in illegal denim workshops with no health and safety standards. Dr. Zeki Kılıçaslan told the paper that the true number of sufferers may be ten times higher, since most of them do not have the health insurance required to be diagnosed by a doctor.

Sandblasting workers, who are estimated to number 10,000 to 15,000, are generally young Turks from poorer areas in the central, eastern and southeastern parts of the country. Former sandblaster Abdülhalim Demir, who now suffers from silicosis, told Today's Zaman, "When I first arrived in Istanbul, I had to sleep on park benches for three days. Then I found the job at a sandblasting factory that saved me from the street and offered me a shelter and money. I knew it was not a dream job for me, but I had no choice."

Consumers, however, do have a choice. The Turkish organization Kotaşlama is calling for a boycott on sandblasted jeans. Since the process is used to give jeans a desirable "lived-in" look, why not do it yourself using a piece of sand paper, or just, you know, live in them for a while? Via: "Denim sandblasters contract fatal silicosis in illegal workshops," Today's Zaman
More on jeans and denim production:
Dye Me A River
TreeHugger Picks: Green Jeans
Denim Therapy for your Tattered Jeans

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