Segments in this Video

Port of Hamburg: Legacy of Industrial Pollution (01:04)


At the Port of Hamburg in Germany, a toxic waste is a legacy of the port's industrial pollution. In order to build on the site, toxins must be removed from the soil. All the toxins pose serious health threats.

Toxins and Toxic Fabric (01:32)

Toxins enter the Port of Hamburg every day hidden in containers. There is no way to tell which shipments are contaminated. Textiles from Asia are often contaminated to the degree that people who work with the fabrics become seriously ill.

Toxic Jeans (00:60)

Jeans imported from Asia were found to be contaminated with substances hazardous to human health.

Chemical Toxicity and Human Health (01:16)

A young woman who works with clothing manufactured in Asia is tested to see if toxins are affected her health. Her doctor recommends that she quit her job to avoid getting seriously ill.

Dilemma: Health vs. Employment (01:17)

An employee has to choose between her health and her employment. If she continues to work with toxic clothing, she will become more ill. If she quits, she may lose her apartment and be unable to pay her bills.

Toxic Residue: Legal Loophole (01:03)

In Germany, there are no legal regulations about the amount of toxic residue on imported clothing. In India where clothing is manufactured, manufacturers certify that they have control over toxic chemicals.

Indian Workers: Toxic Chemicals (01:22)

In India, not far from a clothing manufacturing plant is a cotton bleaching plant. Chlorobenzene is used in the bleaching process. Illiterate workers have no idea they are standing in and working in toxic chemicals.

Families Work in Toxic Environments (01:02)

In India, toxic chemicals are used as pesticides to protect cotton fabric. Chemicals make the cloth softer. The chemicals end up in people's blood. Whole families depend on bleaching plants for their livelihoods.

Dangerous Dye Products (01:10)

The European market demands black cotton clothing, yet to keep black dyes truly black, fabric is treated with an aggressive regimen of chemicals. After two years, dye workers experience loss of hair and burning skin.

Consumer Ignorance (01:10)

Once clothing reaches the Dusseldorf fashion market, no one asks how it was made. Consumers have no way of knowing which toxic substances remain in the clothing they purchase.

Poisonous Residues (01:09)

Fewer than 1000 items of clothing in Germany are tested each year in independent labs. Residues from certain colors are highly cancerous.

Business Interests vs. Health Concerns (01:05)

India's cotton belt uses more pesticides than any place on Earth. Highly toxic chemicals are sold in local shops. Chemicals banned in Europe and the U.S. continue to be manufactured and sold to Third World countries.

Indian Pesticides (01:30)

India's cotton farmers have been growing genetically modified cotton for years. The goal was to make the plants insect-resistant. Pesticides continue to be used anyway.

Pesticides: Serious Health Risks in India (00:60)

A poor farm worker in India was seriously poisoned by insecticides a number of times. Once, he was unconscious for nearly 2 weeks. A hospital is full of people suffering from pesticide poisoning.

Toxicity: Work-Related Illness (01:19)

A young German woman fights to have her illness recognized as work-related. She handled contaminated clothing until she fell ill.

Dangerous Toxin in Woman's Blood (01:01)

A national laboratory in Germany finds traces of dichloro-aniline in a young woman's system. The toxic chemical has been banned in Europe for years. The lab has little experience with the chemical.

Debilitating Effects of Toxins (01:08)

A warehouse worker delays a blood test for lack of money. After several years, no chemical toxins remain in his system. He continues to have shaky hands. Can doctors prove his illness is work-related?

Exposure to Toxic Textiles (01:14)

Overseas containers filled with textiles are subject to extensive pesticide treatment. Dockworkers who unload the freight are subject to toxic exposure. Treated containers are not marked as such.

Precautions for Workers (00:57)

In Hamburg, many shipping containers are x-rayed while others need to be checked for contamination levels. If toxins are found, workers and government agents take special precautions.

Central Nervous System Damage (01:17)

Methyl bromide is so toxic that breathing a small amount can cause irreparable central nervous system damage. This chemical is banned is Europe but arrives regularly on ships from Hong Kong.

Money vs. Health (01:08)

In an Asian fumigation yard, workers are not protected from harmful fumes. The yard owner refuses to talk to an investigative journalist. Clearly, the containers are not fumigated within EU regulations.

Chinese Workers: Progressive Illness (01:09)

Chinese port workers are worried about the chemicals they are exposed to at work. In a secret meeting with a hidden camera, workers report on their progressive illnesses.

Illness Among Port and Customs Workers (01:08)

The EU demands that certain containers be fumigated, but only under strict regulations. Port workers and customs officials in China and in Europe are getting sick.

Toxins Enter Europe (01:28)

The EU seems to have lost the overview of all the toxins entering Europe. More and more people are becoming ill.

Unfair Burden on Victims (01:13)

Workers who collapse, seize, or are chronically ill must prove that their adverse health conditions are the result of industrial poisons. Victims have no way of knowing what containers are poisoned. Officials have no means of getting compliance.

Lax Regulation of Toxins (01:21)

A customs agent supervises checking for toxicity inside a container. Not all containers must be opened in Hamburg, and there is no punishment for high levels of toxicity with chemicals banned in Europe.

High Levels of Toxicity for Consumers (01:06)

Though high levels of toxic chemicals are found in a container, there are no laws in Germany to stop the shipment from moving through customs and across country by truck.

Contaminated Container Travels Through Europe (01:04)

Investigative journalists follow a contaminated container from Germany to the Czech Republic. Customs officials noted the red stamp from Germany and aired out some of the container's freight.

Contaminated Textiles and Shoes (01:12)

Textiles and shoes from Asia are unpacked in the Czech Republic and then distributed throughout Europe. There are no inspection tags on clothes that inform consumers about levels of toxicity.

Lax Authority in Czech Republic (01:13)

There is no independent authority in the Czech Republic that monitors what garments are tested, what they are tested for, and who checks up on the manufacturers in Asia and India.

Lack of Regulatory Protection (01:09)

Even though German officials know that certain containers have high levels of toxic substances, there are no regulations that might apply to these same substances.

Stolen Warning Labels (01:13)

A dock worker keeps a single sticker that he once found on a container. The skull and crossbones warned of methyl bromide. Workers were sent to routinely remove all warning stickers from containers.

Toxin Mimics Hormones (00:59)

In a toy factory in China, paints containing lead are used without precaution. PVC resin for dolls contains thiolates that mimic hormones. Banned in Europe, this dangerous toxin continues to show up in the EU.

Harmful Toys (01:09)

The makers of Barbie dolls have started massive recalls because of softeners added to PVC. The European Poison Control Center "rings the alarm bells weekly." In one month, over 1300 different harmful toys were found in Europe.

Doll: Toxic Waste (01:24)

After testing, a high-end doll is classified as toxic waste, a product that does not even belong on the German market. A child's doll contains toxins that cause cervical cancer.

Toxins and Fertility (02:10)

The health of young German boys is at risk because of toxins. The consequences could be disastrous. The fertility of young men is decreasing. Sperm count in many men is so low that they cannot father children.

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The Toxins Return: How Industrial Poisons Travel the Globe

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In an era of high-speed international commerce, safety standards and import inspection procedures are riddled with loopholes. The result? Quantities of dangerous substances found in goods manufactured overseas have risen dramatically. This program investigates the alarming global mobility of synthetic toxins, tracing egregious—yet often repeated—hazardous material violations from supplier to storefront. Textile producers in India, a popular retail outlet in Germany, and ports and ground-shipment depots in between all reveal their roles in transporting industrial residues and waste. Activists, government authorities, and workers all-too-familiar with toxic exposure speak out on the dangers. (44 minutes)

Length: 45 minutes

Item#: BVL41398

ISBN: 978-1-61616-672-4

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.