Synthetic dyes do not only harm people – even more so, they destroy the environment (and thus also people all over again)! The biggest problem is that synthetic dyes need a lot of water to be produced and applied to the cloth. Often, areas – especially in China – near dye factories run out of water. At the same time, the chemical waste of those factories is often just dumped into the rivers.
Where large dye factories are, we see the effects most dramatically: the water in the rivers have the color of the dye the factories produce that day. The soil in which people grow their food becomes toxic, as they use the water for farming. The rivers are dead, as fish and plants can’t survive the chemicals that the factories dump into the rivers.
You might ask yourself, why we don’t just make laws that force those factories to produce the dyes in more environmentally friendly ways. The reason for this is that most of those factories are located in China or India – countries that have weak laws to protect nature. But that is not entirely the fault of those countries: They need to make sure that their protections for workers and the environment are weak so they can attract the companies that produce the dyes (as laws that protect the environment and workers are expensive for the companies). And these companies are not Chinese and Indian companies! Companies from America and Europe build their factories in these countries to produce their goods as cheap as possible (and to make as much money as possible). Most of the clothes we buy come from those countries – and because of that we can enjoy cheap cloth and don’t have to worry about the harm these cheap products cause to people and nature. In other words: we “import” the t-shirts, but “export” our pollution.