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Adidas continues to sell clothing treated with toxic silver despite the risk to aquatic environments

In a letter to a number of Swedish sportswear chains, the Swedish Water & Wastewater Association (Svenskt Vatten) has urged retailers to phase out sales of all clothing treated with silver.

“Silver is a toxin in the water cycle and we would like to inform sportswear chains of a simple measure that they can take to contribute to a better environment and healthier water,” explains Anders Finnson, senior environmental advisor at Svenskt Vatten.

At the end of October, Svenskt Vatten  published the report Silver Leaching, which contained new laboratory analyses of sportswear treated with silver. Among other things, these analyses demonstrated that a large part of the silver contained in clothing leaches out after only a few washes. After only 10 wash cycles in a washing machine, over 70% of the silver had leached out into the water. This has been the response of sportswear chains:

Positive response – already in the process of phasing out sportswear treated with toxic silver – Grade A

  • Fitnessbutiken
  • Haglöfs (phased out all silver treated products)
  • Stadium

Positive response – planning to phase out sportswear treated with toxic silver – Grade B

  • Addnature
  • Peak Performance

Negative response – planning to continue selling sportswear treated with toxic silver despite the large leaching of silver into the environment – fail, Grade F

  • Adidas

Responded but failed to understand the question – no presence – no grade

  • POC

Unresponsive – no physical presence – no grade

  • Länna Sport
  • Nike
  • Outdoorexperten
  • Sportamore
  • Team Sportia
  • XXL

In their letter, Svenskt Vatten stated that: “Antibacterial silver from treated textiles is the largest known source of silver in water treatment plants. In order for the water cycle to be sustainable in the long term, silver discharged to wastewater treatment plants must be reduced by half. Sportswear treated with silver pose a threat to our lakes and seas, as well as a risk for the spread of antimicrobial resistance.”

“Retailers have now a major opportunity to contribute to a better environment and healthier water by making a minor effort. We have a good deal of experience of this type of dialogue with retail chains and we know that many of them are generally willing to listen to what we have to say. It is now high time for them to remove all garments treated with silver, because water matters” says Anders Finnson.

The Swedish Water and Wastewater Association states that all sportswear treated with silver shall be phased out by 2021, with at least half gone by 2020. Silver is used to treat sportswear because of its antibacterial properties, which are claimed to reduce some odours, and it is not possible to treat the element silver in wastewater treatment plants.

“If you have already purchased a silver-treated sportswear while doing your Christmas shopping, or if you receive one as a present yourself, please exchange it after the Christmas sale. You can then probably get two fine silver-free items of clothing in exchange,” says Anders Finnson.

Link to Silver Leaching report (pdf)

Link to laundry advice (pdf)

Link to video