Child Labor | The High Cost of Cotton

child slave labor cotton industry 01 Child Labor | The High Cost of Cotton

Just in case you thought it was okay to buy non-organic cotton, here’s a wakeup call: the workers sowing, picking, weeding, hoeing, cross-pollinating and carrying the heavy bundles of cotton are often… children. And I’m not talking about kids working their way through college. A report published by the Environmental Justice Foundation estimates that one million children are working 12-hour days earning $2 per day, if anything, to satiate demand for a global industry worth $40 billion.

“China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Turkey – six of world’s top seven producers – have been reported to use child labor in cotton fields,” stated a recent press release. These children forgo their education and health to carry out the backbreaking work in extremes of temperature, many suffering physical, verbal and sexual abuse.

child slave labor cotton industry 02 Child Labor | The High Cost of Cotton

To make matters worse, cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop. It’s responsible for the release of $2 billion of chemical pesticides each year. And in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, children are responsible for spraying these pesticides without any protection, posing serious health risks. Some of the children interviewed by EJF complained of side effects like fainting and sickness from pesticide exposure.

As consumers, we can do more than think twice about a seemingly harmless cotton t-shirt, we can demand accountability from retailers to ensure the cotton on our backs is produced ethically and sustainably.

  • Karen Lohn

    I am requesting permission to use the image of the child laborers from this post in a book that I am writing entitled Peace Fibres: Stitching a Soulful World. In it, I enlist fibre work as metaphor and manifestation of harmonious relationship to self, others, and the larger world. I would use this photograph in a chapter in which I address issues of concern for women and children across the globe, including child labor.

    May I use this image? I would need a high resolution version. Please advise of any fees involved. I would, of course, cite your website as source.

    Peace Fibres will be self published through Integral Press. I anticipate printing in early 2011, with an initial run of 2500.

    Thanks for considering my request. I look forward to your response.Respectfully,
    Karen Lohn

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has…” – Margaret Mead



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