Elementary school pupils in Zhejiang province. (File photo/Xinhua)
A clothing company in Shanghai which supplies uniforms to local schools has repeatedly been found using carcinogenic dyes, highlighting loopholes in the national standard and monitoring system.
A batch of winter uniforms produced by Shanghai Ouxia garment company were found to use a dye containing aromatic amine, a chemical that can cause cancer and cause irreversible harm to the human body, according to the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision. The 21 local schools who buy from the company have stopped using the uniforms and sent samples to be tested. The company has been shut down and is under investigation, according to the local Oriental Morning Post.
The bureau found that six of 22 batches of school uniforms available locally failed to meet standards and have problems such as mislabeling, abnormal pH values, false labeling of fiber content and insufficient user instructions.
Shanghai Ouxia's clothes failed to meet standards for user instructions, labeling and pH values in 2009, 2011 and 2012. The latest violation was uncovered in November.
However, the owner of the company, surnamed Wang, produced a document indicating that a 1cm-wide black band on the uniform was the only part that contained a carcinogenic substance, further adding that he did not send the 50 uniforms that use the material for testing because they are only samples and not for sale. He did not expect the small piece of fabric would be a problem. All the 50 uniforms have since been destroyed, according to the paper.
Clothing factories in China do not need to meet any requirements to secure contracts to supply school uniforms and quality supervision agencies in Shanghai have only a limited time to only examine samples of uniforms since local garment manufacturers only produce uniforms prior to the start of a semester. If a manufacturer's products are found to be substandard, the company is referred to the local technology monitoring department, which will order the firm to make improvements to their products and submit them again for testing. If they pass the second test, they are free to put their products back on the market.
The Shanghai city government said it will introduce an online platform to inform schools of the results of school uniform tests and tell local school to monitor uniform quality and buy high-quality outfits from reputed manufacturers.
At present, the only monitoring standard used by schools with regard to uniforms is price. A set of summer and winter uniforms should cost from around 50-60 yuan (US$8-$9) to 150 yuan (US$24), a tight budget for manufacturers which has led many of them to resort to using substandard materials, the principal of a local school told the Oriental Morning Post.
It is also difficult for schools to monitor the quality of their uniforms sufficiently since they do not have the required professional knowledge and there is no existing standard for them to follow in choosing a supplier.