But even as Target and Gap joined Levi Strauss in proclaiming bans, sandblasting persists in factories that make those retailers' clothes in China, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh, countries responsible for the bulk of the five billion pairs of jeans made each year, research by nonprofits, medical groups and labor organizations shows.
"There clearly is sandblasting going on. I don't know how anyone could really deny it," said Katie Quan, associate chair of the Labor Center at UC Berkeley.
Counterfeit jean production, outsourcing in the supply chain and vast factories that make jeans for dozens of brands under one roof make it difficult to track jeans from production to the shopping mall. But the groups say their research establishes that workers in many of these overseas factories are sandblasting -- spraying sand on denim to make it appear bleached or distressed -- without the necessary protective gear.
Levi Strauss says its suppliers have removed sandblasting equipment from their factories and that it regularly conducts on-site inspections at factories.
"No Levi Strauss & Co. products utilize sandblasting in product development, design, finishing or in any other aspect of garment...