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Study Finds Xinjiang Cotton in 19% of Apparel Sold in U.S., Abroad

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By Brendan Menapace

It’s been a global effort to minimize or outright ban the usage of cotton sourced from China’s Xinjiang province. Xinjiang is the hub of China’s cotton output, and had traditionally been the source of apparel and other products used around the world. But it’s also the epicenter of what watchdogs and government agencies have called human rights abuses against the region’s Uyghur Muslim ethnic group, including forced encampment and forced labor in the cotton manufacturing industry.

As a result, legislation like 2022’ s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the U.S. was put in place to stop the flow of cotton from these facilities, and provide greater transparency in the apparel supply chain, and the FTC has been cracking down on companies that sell products falsely billed as made in the U.S.

Despite these legal guardrails, a study from the natural resource analytics firm Stratum Reservoir and DNA analytics lab Applied DNA Sciences found that Chinese cotton was still found in 19% of a sample of apparel sold between February 2023 and March 2024 in the U.S. and abroad. According to Reuters, the study included cotton swabs, apparel sold at major retailers and online, and footwear products.