Pollution is the discharge of harmful or poisonous substances into the environment. Most often, this is the byproduct of inefficient – technological or otherwise – manufacturing and processing. The textile industry is one of the biggest contributors to the total pollution pool. Pollution emitted from the textile industry can be : Water Pollution, Air Pollution and Solid Waste Pollution. According to the World Bank, 17-20% of industrial water pollution is due to textile dyeing and treatment. Up to 72, chemicals found in polluted water come directly from the textile dyeing process. Thirty of these cannot be removed or completely extracted. At an increasing rate, Earth’s water supplies are threatened by pollutants emitted from the textile industry.The chemicals used in the dyeing process increase acidity of the discharge which can kill fish and other aquatic life, damage nearby crops and cause corrosion of sewers and sewage-treatment plants. The chemicals used in dyes can block sunlight from penetrating bodies of water, blocking photosynthesis. Under normal circumstances, Earth’s ambient air consists of 78% Nitrogen, 20% Oxygen, 1% Argon, and 0.03% Carbon dioxide along with minor amounts of Neon, Methane, Helium, etc. An unstable change in this air composition is regarded as air pollution. Today, the air pollution has also reached to very high levels adversely affecting all living creatures.
The numerous inputs used in the textile-manufacturing chain can emit dust, aerosols, and harmful fumes and gases. Carbon, Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, Sulfur and Chlorine, produced in the manufacturing process, can lead to long-term vision and respiratory problems, the blocking of sunlight, fog persistence and even death. The health effects are similar to those exhibited in long-time cigarette smokers. Young children and elderly people are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution. Long-term health effects include heart disease, nerve damage and even lung cancer. Air pollution is often a much more serious problem for animal and plant life than for humans. Global warming, caused by the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, threatens entire ecosystems as weather and climate patterns change rapidly. Glacial melting, unusual mass migrations of animals and fast drying bodies of water all have very serious environmental impact of industrial development, of which the textile sector is a major contributor. Similarly, the residual waste causes solid waste pollution. It includes yarn, fabrics and packaging materials; storage containers, chemical drums and cardboard packaging or materials used in the plant. These materials are often left in ever-expanding landfills or found littered and inappropriately trashed or recycled. The solid waste pollution can be very much controlled by increasing efficiency and by adapting cleaner work practices but developing economies, where textile industries are more prevalent, are unable to put them in practice due to cost and/or indifferent attitude towards their own society.
However, on the positive side, there is a trend towards using natural inputs for manufacturing and processing of textiles. By emphasising the use of organic cotton, natural dyes, azo-free dyes, zero discharge processes, recycling, cleaner production techniques, pesticides-free cultivation; the textile industry can improve it’s image and drastically reduce the pollution it causes. The industry must realise that it has no right – moral or otherwise – to play with the lives of fellow human beings and also with that of plants and animals. They must control their greed and change their mind-set from ‘Die but Let Dye’ to ‘Why Pollute? Live and Let Dye’. I am sure by doing this they will, eventually, come out to be as the real winners.